Legislative leaders stormed out of private budget talks this morning, each party then accusing the other of being too stubborn to compromise.
Governor Tom Vilsack says it’s the pressure of an election year — with both parties gunning to win a majority of seats in the legislature this fall — that’s caused the break down. “So, we are where we are,” Vilsack says. “Both parties are just dug in as deep as anybody can be dug in.”
Republicans say they offered to raise teacher pay by 35 million dollars next year and even more in the future. House Speaker Christopher Rants says he and the other Republicans asked Democrats, in return, to agree to a 100-million dollar tax cut that would benefit Iowans over the age of 65. In the first year, Republicans offer to spend 35 million on teacher salary hikes, then 70 million in the second and 105 million in the third. “I think it’s a good plan. I think it’s a fair compromise,” Rants says. “It’s taken us a long time to get to this point.”
But Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs rejects the deal because he says the tax cuts for the elderly should be more slowly phased in so state tax revenues don’t fall so quickly that those promised teacher pay hikes can’t be paid. “They’re trying to put in place a committment to teacher salaries that by any analysis we won’t be able to meet in the second or third year because of their tax cuts,” Gronstal says.
Republican leaders in the House also refuse to pass a cigarette tax increase, too, which Gronstal says could be part of a compromise. “We’re ready, willing and able to compromise and ready to stay at the table,” Gronstal says. “Republicans backed away from the table.”
Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion says there is a “stand-off” and Republicans left a deal on the table that’s their final offer. “My mommy always taught me when the sun comes up the next morning, you’ll feel a little differently,” Lundby says. “I’m counting on that.”
The governor isn’t offering his own alternative, instead he’ll try to remain a “consensus builder” — and Vilsack’s not singling out either party for a rebuke. He’s lecturing both of them. “I’m trying to get them to be reasonable,” Vilsack says. “I’m trying to get them to give a little.”
Vilsack says he’s not up for re-election and his role is to bring the negotiations to a peaceful conclusion that both sides can live with. “But it’s really hard to bring consensus when people bring the political aspect of this to the table,” Vilasck asys. “It’s not just one party or another. It’s all of the folks around the table.”