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Iowa Politics Roundup: Governor Blames Senate Democrats for Budget Breakdown PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 08:43

Governor Terry Branstad on Tuesday placed blame for a breakdown in Iowa Statehouse negotiations squarely on the shoulders of the 26-member Senate Democratic caucus, as state government officials began implementing a strategy for a possible shutdown.

“Progress was made until the Senate Democrats met last week and basically told Senator [Mike] Gronstal, ‘You don’t have the authority to negotiate,’” Branstad said. “I think he tried, in good faith, but his caucus basically said ‘no.’ So he came back and said the deal’s off.”

Branstad on Tuesday said that Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will take his place in leading a trade mission to South Korea and China next week so he can continue negotiations on the state budget in Iowa. One month remains before the end of the fiscal year – June 30. Branstad said Republicans thought Senate Democrats were going to provide a counter-proposal on the budget late this past week, but that didn’t happen.

“I think he’s lost control of his caucus,” Branstad said of Gronstal. “I think you’ve got a situation where the leader has tried but hasn’t been able to get the support of his caucus to negotiate something and get this worked out. ... They have been used to calling the shots for the last several years. But now you’ve got a Republican governor, and you have a Republican majority in the House. And that’s a different set of circumstances than they’ve dealt with for some time. They need to respect and recognize that.”

Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) said Tuesday that he stands behind the position of his caucus in insisting on more funding for education. He also asserted that Branstad personally should attend the negotiations rather than sending his staff members.

“If the governor had been personally involved in the ongoing negotiations, he would understand that Democratic senators are united in their opposition to his two-year starvation diet for Iowa schools,” Gronstal said.

Tuesday was the one-month mark of the 2011 legislative session being in overtime. Branstad’s administration is developing a contingency plan if a budget isn’t passed and signed by June 30.

Robert Bailey, communications director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, this past week confirmed to Iowa House Chief Clerk Charlie Smithson that discussions were underway for a plan in case of a possible government shutdown. Meetings were held to discuss scenarios.

“All have complications,” Bailey told Smithson in an e-mail this past Thursday. “We’re working to have a strategy ready by mid-week [June 1] that can be communicated to agencies and the legislature. Included in these deliberations will be identifying critical employees” in public safety and correctional facilities.

But Branstad on Tuesday downplayed the contingency planning.

“The governor has emergency powers whenever there’s an emergency. I am not anticipating an emergency,” Branstad said. “I will deal with it if I have to. But I think they [Senate Democrats] need to get serious about doing the job. I’ve canceled my trip, so I’ll be available to do whatever I have to do.”

The governor said he’s taken numerous issues off the table as part of the negotiations to get to a $5.99-billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2012. He said it’s too late this year to change the state-funded preschool program into a needs-based scholarship program. He also said his proposal to cut the corporate-income-tax rate in half to a flat 6 percent, at a cost to the state of $200 million, likely will not happen this year.