The two men who lead the budget-writing committees in the Iowa House and Senate admit there’s as much as a $300 million difference between the spending plans Republicans and Democrats have crafted. That difference has to be resolved before lawmakers can conclude the 2012 legislative session,
Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Actually, really, there’s four critical issues that we have to resolve this session,” Raecker says. “The budget is directly linked to all of them.”
The four issues would be property tax reform, education reform and the level of state financial support for K-12 schools, community colleges and public universities as well as the legislature’s effort to redesign the delivery of mental health services for poor Iowans and how that care is financed.
Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We’re down to dollars and cents,” Dvorsky says. “All those issues have some sort of fiscal impact, so I think they’re all tied together.”
Dvorsky describes that $300 million difference between Democrats and Republicans as “fairly deep.”
“The House Republicans have a really, really low number,” he says. “The governor has a slightly higher number and the Senate Democrats have a higher number.”
House Republicans propose an overall state spending plan for next year of just over $6.06 billion. Senate Democrats propose spending in the neighborhood of $6.3 billion, with Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s budget plan just slightly below that, at $6.24 billion. Raecker says a final budget deal will be “very complex.”
“There’s not just a matter of splitting the differences,” Raecker says. “There is some very significant differences that we have.”
Raecker and Dvorsky made their comments this morning during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.