Two key leaders in the Iowa House today engaged in a sometimes testy discussion about the campaign for partisan control of the House. During taping of Iowa Public Television’s "Iowa Press" program, House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City accused Democrats of lying to voters about their desires to rewrite labor laws.
"You weren’t honest with Iowans about it in the last election," Rants said. "The very first year Democrats were in control you did try to end Right-to-Work. When you force non-union employees to pay union dues, that is taking away Right-to-Work in this state."
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said Democrats have not proposed junking Iowa’s Right-to-Work law, but did try to give cops, fire fighters, teachers and other government-sector workers more bargaining rights in contract talks. "And we’re going to be working with the governor to see what he wants to do to move Iowa forward and to help out middle class families," McCarthy said. "Some of that may involve working men and women and labor unions. We don’t view that as a bad word."
As the half-hour-long program wore on, the voices of the two lawmakers rose and at several points the two men talked at the same time. McCarthy argued that Democrats who controlled the legislature the past two years have been "good fiscal stewards" and he pointed to the large "rainy day" savings the state has accrued. "We have the largest amount in our reserve funds in the history of Iowa — $624 million in our reserve funds," McCarthy said. "That’s a position of strength to go in if we do have a rainy day here in Iowa."
Rants quickly shot back. "Our reserve accounts are a percentage of the state budget. That tells you that we have a record high state budget and the fact is we are still spending more money right now," Rants said. "We have an actual deficit in this state."
Rants and McCarthy did agree on one issue: neither believes now is the right time to raise the state’s gas tax. Rants called it a "dead issue" for the next couple of years.