The 51 republicans in the Iowa House have decided the state cigarette tax does NOT have to be raised in order to balance next year’s state budget. Representative Bill Dix, a republican from Shell Rock who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says a tax increase is not necessary. Earlier this afternoon (Thursday), Dix unveiled the budget outline republicans in the House plan to pursue. The House G-O-P proposes a state budget of four-point-eight BILLION dollars. Dix says that’s about a four percent increase over the present year. It amounts to 240 million more spending. “It seems to me that a four percent increase for state government, meeting our key priorities, is enough for government,” Dix says. The republican spending plan calls for 40 MILLION dollars more in spending on community colleges, the state universities, and teacher salaries. That’s less than what the Governor has called for. In total, Vilsack wants to spend 200 MILLION more than what the House Republican plan would allow. Democrats say the republican plan falls short in several key areas. Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, says it’s “unacceptable” to fail to spend more money in key areas, like boosting teacher pay. Gronstal says average teacher pay now ranks 38th in the country, and he says that’s unacceptable and unfair to the graduating seniors at Iowa colleges who must look to other states to earn a good salary in their first classroom job. Gronstal says democrats in the Senate will hopefully work out a compromise budget with Senate republicans that will be much different than the plan outlined today by republicans in the House. “A budget that borrows most of the money from other funds that will dry up isn’t an honest budget,” Gronstal says of the House G-O-P plan. Gronstal suggests the republican plan is “short-sighted” and will lead to more state budget cutbacks, like closed courthouses, while doing nothing to raise teaacher salaries.
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