HOUSE REJECTS SENATE`S RESOLUTION; INDIGENT DEFENSE BILLS GO UNPAID
2:00 PM, Apr 5, 2011 | by Jason Clayworth |
Categories: Iowa Politics Insider
House Republicans this afternoon rejected the Senate’s unanimous agreement to allocate $18.6 million and pay overdue bills to Iowans who provide legal services to low-income people and teens accused of crime.
It means that weeks of budget disagreements continue and hundreds of Iowans who represent some of the state’s most vulnerable residents in court will continue to go unpaid.
“It’s only the House Republicans that refuse to pay their bills,” said Rep. Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield.
Republicans countered, saying they believe it’s appropriate to give Gov. Terry Branstad the ability to transfer money from other areas of the state budget to pay the bills.
“We want to get this problem solved,” said Rep. Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna.
Branstad, however, says he disagrees with House Republicans and said transferring money from other areas of the budget is inappropriate because such tactics should only be used in emergencies.
Legislators last year did allocate enough money to the indigent defense program. The $18.6 million would pay for the program through the current fiscal year that ends June 30th.
The allocation has been approved multiple times by either the House or the Senate as part of other bigger tax policy bills. However, both sides have been unable to come to a final agreement and hundreds of people who help represent low-income people accused of crimes have gone unpaid for weeks.
Some lawyers who represent low-income Iowans are owed more than $10,000 and have told lawmakers they’ve had to layoff employees as a result.
The issue not only affects those workers but also Iowa taxpayers who must pay interest on bills that go unpaid for six weeks or longer. The costs would be more than $26,000 a month if the delay continues and interest accumulates on all $2.6 million of unpaid bills.