Senate democrats say they want to raise the state tax on cigarettes by 80-cents-per-pack. Key Senate republicans say they might vote to raise the tax, under certain conditions. Jeff Angelo, a republican from Creston, is the co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I’m not slamming the door to any particular proposal,” Angelo says. Democrats and Republicans in the Iowa Senate today released competing state budget plans. The Democrats’ plan includes the cigarette tax increase. The Republicans’ plan does not. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, says there’s no clear resolution to the impasse yet.”At the moment, we’re kind of at loggerheads,” Gronstal says. The dictionary says that means Senators are “in a state of quarrelsome disagreement.” Gronstal says democrats won’t walk away frmo the session without meeting their priorities, and at some point, the two parties are going to have to come to some point where they agree. Gronstal says “plenty” of republicans privately say they’ll back a cigarette tax increase. “I’m confident that republicans will move this direction,” Gronstal says. But Angelo, the republican co-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today released the Senate G-O-P’s sketch for next year’s state spending and it does not include the cigarette tax hike. “Our particular goal…is to fund the priorities of Iowans without a tax increase,” Angelo says. Yet, 15 minutes after making that declarationm, Angelo said he was not “slamming the door” on a cigarette tax increase if democrats agreed to put the extra money raised into the state’s cash reserve. “I think what needs to happen now is a real honest discussion with Iowans as to how and why we are spending their money,” Angelo says. Senate leader neither party can pinpoint the exact outcome. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, says the partisan split in the Iowa Senate is making things difficult. “I do know that we will find a way to put together a budget…but we’re learning along the way like everyone else is,” he says. Republicans do hold a majority of seats in the Iowa House, and the House G-O-P last week released its own state budget plan. It does not include a cigarette tax increase. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says there’s no need for a tax increase. Rants asys it’s “no surprise” that Democrats, who now have a share of power in the Senate are using it to try to raise taxes.
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