Today is the 110th day of the 2011 Iowa legislative session and most of the key state spending and tax policy decisions have not been made yet.
It sounds as if behind-the-scenes negotiations aren’t going well. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs aired his frustration during a statehouse news conference. “I’ve grown weary of offering olive branches,” Gronstal said. “My arms are tired from carrying the olive branches.”
A couple of hours later when questioned by reporters, Republican Governor Terry Branstad had this response. “Senator Gronstal now has to deal with a Republican governor and a Republican House. He hasn’t had to deal with that and so I just ask him to be patient and work with us,” Branstad said. “I’m going to be patient and we’re going to persevere.”
Gronstal told statehouse reporters that Branstad has “stonewalled” every alternative Senate Democrats have offered.
“There haven’t been a lot of conversations with the governor. I wouldn’t describe relations as bad or good,” Gronstal said. “They’re the executive branch. We’re the legislative branch. We have the constitutional responsibility to appropriate dollars. We will attend to our responsibilities. They can attend to theirs.”
According to Branstad, he sets aside “at least an hour” every day to meet with legislators.
“They don’t show up, but I have the time,” Branstad told reporters, with a laugh. “…I can’t help it if they choose not to meet with me.”
The two parties have not yet reached agreement on how much state aid to send Iowa’s public K-12 schools either. Democrats like Gronstal are pressing for a two percent increase, which Gronstal said would amount to about $65 million.
“The state can afford to provide for the basic educational needs of our children in this state,” Gronstal said.
Republicans, including Governor Branstad, are insisting on no increase in state aid to schools in the next two years.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing something that is affordable and sustainable for the long term,” Branstad said.
Neither the House nor Senate will be in session today. Most House members left Des Moines Tuesday night. Most Senators went home Wednesday night. Legislative leaders and key committee members will be back at the statehouse today, however, trying to find a way to resolve the conflicts.