Friday is the last scheduled day of the 2011 Iowa legislative session, but there’s no agreement on key taxing and spending plans , and most of the 150 legislators have gone home. A few lawmakers, mostly leaders, are at the statehouse, meeting behind closed-doors to hammer out deals, however it could be days, perhaps weeks, before agreements are reached.
Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “The priorities have been established and we see where there is movement and alignment,” Raecker says. “And we will find that movement and alignment.”
Republicans in the House have crafted a budget plan for the next state fiscal year that’s 147-million dollars less than what Democrats in the Iowa Senate want to spend. Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He expects negotiations to go on for days.
“You don’t see anyone carrying a sign that says, ‘The End Is Near,'” Dvorsky jokes. A big stumbling block is the governor’s insistence on a detailed, two-year budget. Democrats in the Senate have balked at that, while Republicans in the House are siding with Governor Branstad.
“But there’s not any talk right now, legislatively, about that second year and that discussion still has to take place,” Raecker says. “The governor has been very intent about what he wants. The House Republicans have delivered a two-year budget over to the senate. The senate has made their position known as well…It’s going to take some time to resolve it, but we will get it resolved.”
Senate Democrats have suggested an alternative to a two-year budget which would see lawmakers draft a detailed plan for next year, but in the second year each state agency would get 50 percent of what they’d been allotted in the previous year. Governor Branstad has rejected that, saying his call for a two-year budget is “non-negotiable.”
Each legislator has a clerk or secretary and today is the last day they get paid for their work. Legislators themselves get daily expense money for each day of the scheduled 110-day session and that money runs out tomorrow.
Most legislators get $134 a day to cover living expenses, but Polk County legislators are paid a little less — about a hundred dollars a day.