Governor Terry Branstad is rejecting an idea some of his fellow Republicans have floated. Some Republican lawmakers say they should walk away from state budget negotiations with Democrats and wait ’til January, when there’s a new legislature, to make final budget decisions.
“I think it’s better for the legislature to complete its work and get it done this week,” Branstad says.
Last year legislators approved a partial two-year state budget plan that would provide most state agencies with half as much as they’ve gotten this year. The next state fiscal year starts July 1st and Branstad suggests it shouldn’t be that difficult to come up with a final budget plan this week.
“We’re very close,” Branstad says. “I think progress was made last week in narrowing the differences, so the differences are very small and I think it needs to be resolved.”
Branstad is also urging legislators to take a series of steps to improve Iowa’s K-12 public schools. Branstad calls the education reform plan that passed the Republican-led House “bold” while he uses the word “disappointing” to describe what Senate Democrats endorsed. Key legislators say it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to bridge the differences between the two approaches.
“I think the people of Iowa will hold the legislature, the ones that — and I would say the Senate Democrats, probably accountable if they fail to take action because Iowans strongly feel that we need to reform education, that we’ve seen our test scores in relation to other states slip,” Branstad says.
According to the governor, another goal of the reform effort is to come up with a series of “accountability” measures that will help the state get a waiver from the federal government’s “No Child Left Behind” standards.
“The Senate bill was very timid and doesn’t make really substantial reforms,” Branstad says. “…We need to pass something much more meaningful and significant than what was in that and if the Senate just refuses to, then we need to get a new Senate, but my hope is that they will recognize that we need to pass a bold education reform. We need to do it this year and if they fail to do so, obviously, they’re going to have to face the consequences of it.”
Branstad told reporters this morning that he has reached an agreement on property tax reform with legislative leaders and the plan is likely to be made public “in a matter of days, if not hours.”
AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference (runs 22 minutes)