DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) — A new year means a new chance for Iowa lawmakers to tackle some of the state's biggest problems.
The 2019 legislative session kicks off at the Statehouse in two weeks and lawmakers from both parties said they hope to find common ground on several issues.
Republican Sen. Julian Garrett said a big focus will be on the state budget.
“Education is always a big priority,” Garrett said. “Fifty-five percent of our budget is education all up and down the line. Mental health and Medicaid, hopefully we can put a little more in those areas.”
Garrett credits his party for a budget surplus last year and an anticipated one this year but said caution is in order.
“We want to be responsible in our budgeting,” he said.
After Republicans passed a major tax cut bill during the 2018 legislative session, more tax cuts could be on the table again in 2019.
Democratic Rep. John Forbes said his party is worried that vital programs could get trimmed.
“Republicans are talking about more tax cuts for people here in the state of Iowa and we already passed about a $400 million tax bill last year,” Forbes said. “So, I have some concerns about how we're gonna be able to balance our budget and be able to provide the services Iowans want.”
Lawmakers on both sides plan to push criminal justice reform, which stalled in the Iowa House in 2018.
Both Forbes and Garrett said they expect both sides to look at shoring up Medicaid and making mental health a priority.
“We started out last year with legislation (and) we didn't fund it very well I don't think, and we're gonna have to look at more money to put into mental health services,” Forbes said.
“It may be that the difference of opinion will be how much to spend,” Garrett said.
Garrett and Forbes said Republicans and Democrats plan to address Iowa's skilled labor shortage.
As for traffic cameras, Republican Sen. Brad Zaun said he plans to reintroduce legislation banning them in the new year.