Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have struck a rare deal, more than a month before the scheduled end of their 2014 session. They already agree on how big the state budget should be and the decision will speed the process according to Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
“You know, we work together, unlike Washington, D.C.,” Soderberg says. “We’ve had dialogue probably daily throughout the legislative session and the bottom line is this does spend less than the ongoing revenue in the state of Iowa.”
Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“This is like my 28th year here and democracy actually works, strange as it may seem, and that’s part of it,” Dvorsky says. “We just sit down and start talking and go through these budgets and keep working away and so it actually does work.”
Legislators say there hasn’t been a budget deal like this, when different parties control the Iowa House and Senate, in recent memory. Democrats and Republicans now agree the overall level of state General Fund spending should be just shy of $7 billion. They’ve also agreed to provide a budget boost to the state universities so in-state tuition levels can remain the same for the next academic year. In addition, the two parties agree community colleges should see a four percent budget boost. The budget plan Governor Branstad presented to lawmakers in January did not provide additional state support to community colleges.
The next state budgeting year begins July 1 and the budget outline the two parties have agreed to calls for a more than seven percent increase in spending compared to this year’s level. The agreement legislators have drafted is the bottom line spending figure for eight different budget bills. Democrats and Republicans will start meeting tomorrow (Thursday) to hammer out all the details for each of those eight bills.