Legislators are scheduled to return to Des Moines today (Monday) with few signs the stalemate over the state budget will be quickly resolved. Republicans are insisting they’ve made a final offer — a deal that would raise teacher salaries and erase state taxes on Social Security within six years. Democrats and Governor Vilsack say they’re holding out for more money for teachers and would accept the tax cuts if they’re phased in over 10 years.
Vilsack says leaders from both political parties need to compromise. “There’s a relatively simple way out of this abyss that we find ourselves in if people will be reasonable,” Vilsack says. But legislative leaders raised the possibility this past Friday that the 2006 Iowa Legislature may pass just a “bare bones” state budget and go home without setting aside additional money for teacher salaries or cutting state taxes for seniors.
Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says there may be no way to bridge the divide between the two political parties. “It may in fact be time for us to get done what we can get done and have an election and see whether Iowans buy the message that the Republicans are selling or whether they buy the message that the Democrats are selling,” Gronstal says.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says that would be “unfortunate.” “We have a unique moment in time here when we can do something significant,” Rants says. “To throw all of that away because you want to go to the election…I think that’s putting politics ahead of policy.”
Governor Vilsack suggests if legislators do not commit more money to teacher salaries and pre-k programs, he’ll veto the budget lawmakers send him and call lawmakers back into special session to accomplish those goals. “I will tell you this: I’m not giving up on this,” Vilsack says. “I told you before and I’ll tell you again: I’m not giving up on this.”