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Ragan: Let’s find bipartisan agreement

From State Senator Amanda Ragan:

As the 2012 session begins to wrap up, the biggest remaining differences between the Iowa Senate and House involve investments in education. This includes proposals to improve early reading skills, reduce Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers and ensure college is affordable for Iowa families.

Last year, the longest session in recent memory, ended relatively quickly once conference committees were established. Conference committees are comprised of five legislators from the House and five from the Senate. Their task is to resolve the differences between the two chambers on key bills.

This year, the Senate looks forward to a side-by-side, public comparison of our differences with the House. We believe this effort will benefit educational opportunity and support job creation.

We hope our effort will also show support for seniors, working families and at-risk children. The Senate’s Health and Human Services budget would help achieve that goal. Here are some of the highlights of the Senate budget in Senate File 23 :

** Helping seniors live as independently as possible. Iowa seniors want to live in their own homes as long as they can. We want our parents and grandparents to live in the most independent setting for as long as possible. Community-based services make that a reality by bringing services to seniors at home. By investing in community-based services, we will save money in the long term by avoiding more costly institutional care.

** Keeping child care available so working families can stay on the job. By providing $8 million for child care assistance, we make it possible for parents working fulltime at low-wage jobs to keep working. Increased support for local childcare providers will make quality childcare easier to find.

** Ensuring safe, stable homes for children at risk. Surveys repeatedly find that Iowa is one of the most “child-friendly” places to raise a family. We want to make sure it stays that way for all Iowa kids. That’s why we’ve approved support for adoption and foster care, children at risk and other initiatives that keep our kids safe and well-cared for.

** Investing in our health care system. We protected doctors, local hospitals and pharmacies from additional cuts, appropriated funding to attract physicians to rural Iowa where shortages are greatest and invested in improving the skills of direct care workers.

** Making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation. For example, the Senate budget provides funding for early cancer detection and helps Iowans stop smoking through tobacco prevention programs.

** Helping those hit hardest by the recession.This includes providing assistance for food bank purchases and for health centers that provide services to low-income Iowans.

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