The top Democrat in the legislature says Iowa’s new Democratic governor will get nearly all of what he’s requested in terms of state spending. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says Governor Culver made a compelling case today for his budget priorities.
"He will get in this budget somewhere between 90 and 99 percent of what he’s asked for," Gronstal says. "…There may be some where we want to do a little less than he; there may be some where our particular priorities move a little bit in a different direction but overall when we are done…he will get 90 to 99 percent of what he asked for." Culver asked legislators to hike the state cigarette tax by a dollar per pack.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, has been reluctant to embrace that, but after Culver’s speech he was a bit more supportive. "I think he had some compelling arguments…I think you may have people re-look the issue now," Murphy says. But Representative Paul Shomshor, a Democrat from Council Bluffs who leads the House tax-writing committee, isn’t ready to endorse the buck-a-pack cigarette tax hike.
"People in border communities might have a little bit different opinion," Shomshor says. "I’m from a border community. Raising it a dollar specifically would be challenging from some people in my community." Nebraska’s cigarette tax is 64-cents-per-pack. Iowa’s current cigarette tax is 36-cents-per-pack.
House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City, another city that borders Nebraska, says Culver’s call for a tax increase doesn’t fit Culver’s call for limited spending. "He’s breaking his first principle in budgetary matters when he said spend only what you have available," Rants says. "I mean, he’s breaking his first principle on day one."