The key disputes of the 2012 legislative session remain unresolved and it’s unclear how or when the two political parties will compromise.
Republicans control the House debate agenda and Democrats control the Senate. Bills must clear both the House and Senate before they reach Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s desk. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, the top Republican in the legislature, suggests “it’s no secret” the two parties can’t agree on the state budget for next year.
“I don’t think laying down ultimatums is helpful and so I don’t want to lay down an ultimatum,” Paulsen said during a statehouse news conference. “But I would say — I mean, we have moved a long, long ways…We have nothing left to give, I guess.”
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs told reporters he’s not going to “pick a fight” in public with Republicans, but he did suggest there are several reasons the two parties haven’t reached compromise yet.
“People have strong feelings about the issues that confront our state,” Gronstal said. “We strongly believe we need a worldclass community college system that’s there to train the workers of today and tomorrow…We think the House significantly underfunds that effort.”
Among the other unresolved items: spending for the public universities, a plan to reduce property taxes for businesses and whether Republicans will go along with Governor Branstad’s request for 25 million dollars to hand out as grants to businesses that promise to expand in Iowa. Senate Democrats are willing to go along with that. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said it appears to him the two parties have reached a standstill.
“I would not be surprised if the average Iowan is frustrated,” McCarthy said, “just like we are.”
Senator Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, said he and other Republicans were elected to hold the line on state spending.
“I’m very comfortable doing that job for as long as I have to do it,” Dix said.
Neither the Senate nor the House is meeting today and it’s unclear whether rank-and-file legislators will return to the capitol Monday. It may be just a handful of lawmakers who are involved in the private negotiations over tax and spending issues.