From the Marshalltown Times-Republican, by Ken Black:

Jobs and balanced budget top legislative priorities in 2010
By Ken Black

The upcoming session of the Legislature will be very difficult and focus on finding ways to make the state leaner and more efficient, local and state leaders said Friday.

“With the national recession still causing pain for many middle class families, we will work to create good-paying jobs, help small businesses expand and make sure the unemployed get the skills the need to land a job,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines.

McCarthy laid the blame for the state’s current budget deficits squarely on the shoulders of the national recession and dismissed Republican claims of runaway spending as merely partisan politics.

“I’m looking forward to working on some of these challenging issues,” said Sen. Steve Sodders D-State Center. “It’s going to be difficult.”

McCarthy said some issues still need addressed even in a year of tough budget decisions. Those include access to health care, which he said Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, has worked very hard on.

“I’m very pleased with the efforts we’ve had over several years in doing health care reform in a bipartisan way,” Smith said.

He noted that a recent bill introduced in the last session to expand health care to more children was approved by a vote of 97-3.

At the same time, McCarthy said there will be a need to prioritize and even cut in some areas. He noted that those who are most vulnerable should get the most protection and said if it came down to kicking a child out of a state-run health care program and eliminating a business tax credit, it would be the tax credit that went.

At the same time, he noted it is not all about eliminating programs totally. Some may just be funded at lower levels.

The Legislative session begins the first full week in January.

 Photo courtesy of the Marshalltown Times-Republican, Ken Black.