Republican leaders in the Iowa Senate say they would agree to a five-year plan that would spend 450-million more state tax dollars to raise teacher salaries. It’s part of the give-and-take that’s going on behind the scenes at the statehouse as lawmakers and Governor Tom Vilsack try to agree on a draft of next year’s state budget.
Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a Republican from Dows, says the average teacher salary in Iowa has fallen too low. “The one thing we want to do is increase teacher salaries in the state of Iowa,” Iverson says. “That is important to all of us. We know 41st in the nation is not acceptable.”
Iverson says Senate Republicans will continue to insist, though, that higher pay be tied to how well the teacher’s students perform. “I feel very strongly that we have to draw the line in the sand and say we want our teachers paid more and we want our students to learn,” Iverson says. “I think that’s what the people of Iowa have told us.”
So now, Senate Republicans and Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack are agreeing to a 30-million dollar teacher pay package, while House Republicans haven’t committed to any money — and Senate Democrats are pressing for 50-million.
Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says all the parties involved have laid their cards on the table now. “We had frank discussions about the differences and there are significant, maybe even dramatic differences when it comes to coming up with a budget,” Gronstal says. Gronstal calls the folks who were in that negotiating room “reasonable people” who’ve committed to resolving their differences in a “timely way.”
House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah says Wednesday’s meeting was just the opening round of budget discussions that could be resolved before Easter. Gipp says all the parties involved “put numbers on the board,” and they’re analyzing the “gaps” between what Republicans in the House and Senate, Democrats in the House and Senate, and the governor want. “It’s the first time that we’ve seen what some of those numbers are,” Gipp says.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the details of the budget negotiations should stay behind closed doors at this point. “One of the ground rules that I intend on abiding by is we’re going to do all our negotiations in the (governor’s) office,” Rants says. “I’m not going to try to negotiate in the press.” Rants says he’s looking forward to the next negotiating session. Legislative leaders and the governor will meet privately again this (Thursday) morning at 8:30 to continue their negotiations.