The 2000 Iowa Legislature passed a nearly one-billion dollar education spending package last night, then adjourned for the year. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says the G-O-P budget plan does what it needs to do — and keeps the state in the black. He says, “We’re ready to go home, we’ve had a good year.” Rants says the legislature met the challenges it set at the beginning of the year.House Speaker Brent Siegrist, a republican from Council Bluffs, says the accomplishments of the session can be summed up in the Jimmy Buffett song title: Quietly Making Noise. He says, “We did a lot of things that are going to touch a lot of Iowans.”Republicans control the debate agenda in the Legislature, and democrats in the House and Senate are critical of the legislature’s work product. House Democrat Leader David Schrader of Monroe says there were many failings, such as lack of action on stricter standards for large-scale hog confinements. Schrader says the session moved sideways and compared governor Vilsack to a runner with a piano on his back doing the best he can. He says republicans did what they could to keep Vilsack from being successful.Senate Democrat Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says Republicans will rue their decisions on education spending. He says tuition will go up and higher education will be less affordable for thousands of students.But Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows defends the Republican record. He says they came together pretty well and did what the people of Iowa need them to do. Iverson says they did not take care of all of the desires of the people, but he says that’s not government’s function.Governor Vilsack says the legislature’s record is mixed, but successes came when Republicans worked cooperatively with democrats like him. Vilsack says, “a number of things were left on the table” because republicans weren’t willing to put aside partisanship and self interest to focus on the common interest.Among the legislature’s top accomplishments: a plan to use federal money to convert unused nursing home beds into assisted living apartments as well as the “Vision Iowa” program which will advance up to 200-million state tax dollars for large-scale recreation, education or cultural projects.
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