This could be the final week of the 2005 Iowa Legislative session, but the fight over state spending is still fierce. A plan that calls for an eight-and-a-half percent increase in state spending cleared the Iowa Senate last week and it has Governor Vilsack’s endorsement, too. The 51 Republicans in the House, though, are holding out for less. Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City says the plan is just too pricey. Some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate agree, but weren’t able to stop the plan last week. Senator David Miller, a Republican from Batavia, says Iowa taxpayers can’t afford another week like last week. “It time for us to close this place down and go home,” Miller shouted, thumping his fist on his desk for emphasis. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says the plan,which includes a 36-cent-increase in the state tax on a pack of cigarettes — is the best that could come from a Senate that’s equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. “Is it a perfect bill? No,” Gronstal says. “It’s the product of compromise, cooperation, recognizing the things that both parties think are important.” Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the state has to spend money to stimulate the economy.”We’re not going to save our way into prosperity,” McCoy says. Senator Brad Zahn, a Republican from Urbandale, is not pleased with the budget plan. Zahn says no business is “growing the expense side of the ledger” as much as legislators are prepared to increase state government spending. “It should be lean around here all the time and I’m ashamed that we’re growing government by eight-and-a-half percent,” Zahn says. But other Republicans set aside their reservations and voted for the budget plan as the deal that may end the 2005 legislative session. Senator Dave Mulder, a Republican from Sioux Center, put it like this. “I’m going to support this and I hope you do, too, because I want to go home,” Mulder said last week. “Bobby Bare’s my favorite singer and that’s his favorite song: ‘Oh, oh, oh, I want to go home.'” Governor Tom Vilsack on Friday told reporter he had been advised to give House Speaker Rants a little room, so the governor didn’t talk with Rants for most of last week. Neither did Rants’ fellow Republican leaders in the Senate. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, isn’t apologizing. “We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” Lamberti said Thursday of the communication breakdown. But Rants, the other legislative leaders and the governor have to talk, sometime, before the 2005 Legislature can complete its work and go home.
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