The Iowa Legislature has begun its 2005 session and despite calls for bipartisanship, there’s already a partisan divide shaping up over taxes. house Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, started this morning with a shot across the bow at democrats. “There’s been a lot of talk about the tight majorities will mean that certain ideas, certain issues are going to fall off the table as to what can be discussed,” Rants says. “Perhaps this is an opportunity for both sides — democrats and republicans — to strike our first bipartisan accord. Let’s take the issue of raising taxes off the table of discussion this year. It’d be an excellent opportunity to get the session off to a good start.” Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a republican from Dows, says there should be no new taxes this year, period. “That includes every tax,” Iverson says. But democrats aren’t ready to jump on the bandwagon. Senate co-leader Mike Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, isn’t ready to make the no-new-taxes pledge. “I think people have to take a look at the budget and figure out our budget circumstance, figure out what we can afford to do and make those decisions,” Gronstal says. “I think it’s too early to tell.” And Senator Joel Bolkcom (bowl-kum), a democrat from Iowa City who will be co-chair of the Senate Ways and Means tax-writing Committee says raising the cigarette tax is a real possibility because the state budget needs a cash infusion. Bolkcom says lawmakers have spent most of their time cutting the state budget the past few years, and the situation’s unmanageable, as some state troopers and prison guards can’t take time off because their units are so short-staffed. Bolkcom says he’ll be looking for opportunities to raise taxes — or in his words “find revenues.” House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah says Governor Vilsack’s proposed tax package would ensure the state treasury would collect the same amount of taxes, but some Iowans would have to pay more in taxes. “We’re not going to have tax reform which simply makes more people pay, that you just shift the money around on who pays the taxes,” Gipp says. The legislature’s opening day is filled with pagentry as a huge pavel strikes to mark the beginning of the session and new members of the House and Senate take the oath of office. House Speaker Christopher Rants quoted a republican president to kick things off. Theodore Roosevelt once said there’s no greater prize in life than working hard at work worth doing, and Rants says that’s what the General Assembly is greet with this year. “We’re anxious to get started this morning,” Rants says. “Let the decision-making begin.” House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah says “interesting” is the most-often-used word to describe the upcomign session. “And I kind of smile when I hear that word interesting because I think it’s code language (because) we really don’t know what the heck is going to go on in this session,” Gipp says. Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a republican from Dows, says he looks forward to the work in the Senate, which is equally divided with 25 republican and 25 democrat senators. Iverson says there’s shared power, but shared responsibility. “I think you’re doing to see a lot different dynamics in the Senate than you’ve seen in the past,” Iverson says. And Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti (lam-BER’-tee), a republican from Ankeny, says today is an historic moment. Lamberti says it will take a good share of trust among democrats and republicans to get things done.
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