Most state legislators have been away from the statehouse for most of this week as the stalemate over state spending continues.
The Senate suspended debate on Tuesday afternoon; the House wrapped up its debate on Wednesday morning. A handful of key legislators, though, remain at the statehouse, meeting privately with one another to hash out their differences.
“The people that need to be here for negotiations are here,” House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer says.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says negotiations with Republicans aren’t going well, however.
“What do you do when they change the parameter of the deal you’ve been working on since the beginning of session in the 114th day?” Gronstal asks.
Democrats and Republicans are digging in for a long budget battle, with Republicans refusing to approve a state budget plan that spends more than $5.9 billion. Legislators have another $240 million that could be spent, based on the state law that sets spending guidelines. But House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says Republicans have no intention of agreeing to spend that pot of money.
“That’s one of the things we promised Iowans we would do in the last election is work towards a less-expensive, more transparent, more open, more efficient state government,” Paulsen says.
Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, suggests there’ll be teacher layoffs and higher community college tuition if the G.O.P. plan is adopted.
“It’s kind of ridiculous,” Kibbie says.
Democrats say it may take weeks, perhaps months to iron out of the differences between the two parties. Republicans say while negotiations may be lengthy, it would be “unacceptable” to have a government shut-down on July 1 when the new state budgeting year begins. That almost happened in 1992 when legislators and Governor Branstad were unable to strike a budget deal until the last week of June.