Governor Terry Branstad says he’s willing to call lawmakers back to Des Moines for a “special” legislative session to pass a property tax relief package, but only if there is an iron-clad deal. Branstad says Senate Democrats would have to agree to pass a plan that’s fairly close to the bill that passed the Republican-led House earlier this week.
“I’m willing to to bring ’em back, but I want an assurance that they have the votes to do it,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “I don’t want to call ’em back unless we feel confident that they have the votes and they’re going to come in and do it. Otherwise we call ’em back and it costs the taxpayers money and we wouldn’t get something done. I’ve seen that happen before, too.”
Branstad said the House bill is “basically the framework” he would accept.
“It could be tweaked a little bit, but we think it needs to be very close to that,” Branstad says.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal suggests the main sticking point throughout the negotiations has been what the state’s role would be in dealing with the losses when commercial property taxes are reduced.
“If we’re going to reduce the amount of taxes that local governments get from commercial properties, the state ought to reimburse that,” Gronstal told reporters Wednesday.
According to Gronstal, Republicans balked at making a promise to permanently provide $140-million, each year, to local governments to make up for the reduction in commercial property taxes. Branstad said Republicans are focused on “protecting taxpayers” while Democrats are focused on “protecting local governments.”
“The Senate, well, they couldn’t even pass their own proposal, so they just seem don’t to have the committment to property tax relief that Iowans are looking for,” Branstad said. “I think that tells us we need a new, Republican majority in the senate to get this done.”
Gronstal, during an interview with reporters on Wednesday, said he had “offered up” a variety of options to the governor’s staff, but Branstad himself attended just one of the negotiating sessions with legislators.
“It seems to me they’re turned the corner and decided it’s time to play politics. I think that’s unfortunate,” Gronstal said.
According to Branstad, the “framework” for a deal was reached in mid-April, but Senate Democrats could never commit to passing it.
“If the senate decides they want to get serious about this and they come to me and tell me they have the votes to pass permanent property tax relief along the lines that we’ve been discussing, I’m willing to call ’em back to do it,” Branstad said.
Branstad spoke with reporters this morning on the lawn of Des Moines East High School where he waiting for the start of a ceremony to open the school’s time capsule. Last night the 2012 Iowa legislative session ended just before 6:30 p.m. when the House passed its final bill. The senate had adjourned about an hour earlier.