The top Republican in the Iowa House says a new call from Democrats for spending state money on the Des Moines Zoo was at the root of Wednesday’s break-down in state budget talks, while Democrats say that spending proposal has been public for weeks.
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says Democrats first proposed giving the zoo a half a million dollars in state gambling taxes back in late April. “To suggest to us that this budget battle is being fought over funding for a zoo or funding for a state trail system is disingenuous,” McCoy says.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, suggested Wednesday that Democrats had laid new budget demands on the negotiating table this week, including the money for the zoo and a call for funding trails and “a campground.” However, those proposals were included in a bill that passed the Senate on May 2nd.
McCoy says the campground Paulsen doesn’t wish to spend state money on is Camp Sunnyside, a camp run by the Easter Seals of Iowa for physically and mentally challenged children. In early May, McCoy and the other Democrats in the senate voted to give the camp a quarter-of-a-million dollars to fix up its 50-year-old cabins.
“To help them bring (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance in their facilities,” McCoy says. “They’re not A.D.A. compliant.” All these proposals were included in a bill the Senate passed on May 2nd. It’s a bill that lays out how legislators will spend state gambling taxes — money that’s set aside for infrastructure projects and it is not part of the state’s general fund budget.
“I could just as easily say that the Republicans have been pushing me to increase the amount of spending for lake dredging. They want to spend $8.6 million for lake dredging around the state,” McCoy says. “I like lakes and I think lakes should be dredged when they’re full of silt, but I also think there’s other priorities.”
McCoy and other Democrats in the Senate have voted to spend money on lake dredging, but about three million dollars less than Republicans propose. Back to Paulsen’s beef with spending more money on trails: according to an analysis from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, both the Democratically-led Senate and the Republican-led House have set aside money for recreational trails around the state, but the amounts vary.
The House voted on the matter in late March. The Senate passed its version in early May. “So, it’s not a new issue at all,” McCoy says. Republicans in the House also voted in March to spend 45-thousand dollars on “security improvements” for Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office in the Lucas State Office Building, but Democrats in the Senate oppose that.