Today is the last “scheduled” day for the 2015 Iowa legislative session. That doesn’t mean the legislature has to end today, it’s just that today is the final day legislators will be paid a daily allowance to cover the expense of living part of the week in Des Moines.
The major, unresolved issue is the size of the state budget. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs accuses Republicans of “drawing a line in the concrete” on state spending.
“The key issue is really pretty simple: it’s the unwillingness of House Republicans to compromise,” Gronstal told reporters Thursday. “They can’t even compromise with their own governor.”
Gronstal and his fellow Senate Democrats have embraced the overall state spending level Republican Governor Terry Branstad proposed in January, but House Republicans are lobbying for less.
“They each year want to spend more than we do,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, told reporters Thursday. “…It’s the one thing that we’ve said that we are absolutely firm on and I don’t expect that to change.”
Over the past week both the House and Senate have been debating budget bills that outline general spending plans for various state agencies and departments. Discussion in the Iowa House on the proposals has been long and often intense.
Representative Chip Baltimore, a Republican from Boone, suggested Thursday that economic storm clouds are on the horizon, like the avian flu hitting Iowa poultry farms, and a slimmer state budget is necessary.
“I prefer to listen to the professional money managers out there who are making difficult budget decisions in the private as opposed to the private sector where we cannot spend enough,” Baltimore said.
Democrats in the House, like Representative Bruce Hunter of Des Moines, accuse Republicans of failing to set aside enough money for key priorities, like education and water quality.
“For example, the city of Des Moines is still paying $700,000-$1,000,000 a year to make water safe to drink,” Hunter said Wednesday. “We’re not talking about dirty drinking water. We’re talking about poisonous drinking water.”
Debate in the senate this week on a variety of budget bills has been short, with Senate Republicans merely voting no rather than voice many objections to the budget plans developed by Democrats.