Small groups of legislators will meet at the statehouse today to try to hammer out compromises on several key budget bills. Things got a bit testy in the Iowa Senate Wednesday as Republicans and Democrats argued over a $1.5-billion spending bill for the state’s health and human services programs.
Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, argued vulnerable Iowans are in jeopardy because Republicans have insisted on an overall state budget that spends less than six billion dollars. “Am I whining? No,” Hatch said. “Am I warning? Yes.” Hatch got angrier and louder as he vowed not to reduce spending any further.
“I’m making it very clear that if children’s abuse goes unreported, undetected,” he said, “if we don’t get there soon enough and children are hurt because of it don’t be surprised.” Later, it was the Republicans turn to complain. Senator Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, criticized Democrats for proposing a three percent increase in state support of public schools for the fall of 2012.
“To promise something that may not be able to be delivered upon is simply not good judgment,” Dix said. Dix and other Republicans are proposing a two percent increase in general state school aid instead of the three percent Democrats suggest. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, blamed rising tensions at the statehouse on the looming deadline to get budget issues resolved before July 1st, when the new state budgeting year begins.
“I won’t put blame on any one group,” Chelgren said. “I think both sides are guilty of this: we have spent months out talking to people, our constituents, and trying to market ourselves without doing the work of the people, in my opinion.”
Senate Republicans tried to stage a sort of “sleep in” at the statehouse, trying to keep the Senate in session around the clock until the budget impasse is resolved, but Democrats rebuffed the move at about 8:30 p.m. The Senate is scheduled to convene again today at 9 a.m.