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Legislative Standoff Turns into a Road Show PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 20 May 2011 08:31

The stalemate at the Iowa Statehouse took on a new tone Tuesday, as Senate Democrats began taking their show on the road with a statewide tour to get the public involved.

“It’s time for Iowans to get involved,” said state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs). “We have people in this building that will not listen. The only way you’re going to break this impasse isn’t amongst the players up here. We’re in the 130th day, almost, of the session. It’s not going to be broken inside this building. It’s going to be broken by Iowans stepping up to the plate and calling the governor and telling him [that] zero [funding growth] for local schools is unacceptable.”

Governor Terry Branstad on Tuesday announced his own tour of the state. He and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will next week hold a series of town-hall meetings in New Hampton, Cresco, Waukon, Elkader, Oelwein, and Independence.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) questioned Democrats’ continuing talk of a stalemate and potential government shutdown.

“It almost makes you wonder if they’re not trying to push us to that point,” Paulsen said. “If they’re under the impression that they’re going to get to spend as much money as they have in the preceding four years, they need to understand: That’s not going to happen. That’s not where we’re going to go.”

Gronstal said it isn’t a two-year budget, divisive social issues, or talk of a government shutdown that’s blocking adjournment of the 2011 legislative session. Instead, he listed 10 key differences:

• Democrats want 2-percent allowable growth for school budgets. Republicans want zero percent, although Republicans said even that will cost the state an additional $216 million, because schools were underfunded this past year. The difference between the two proposals is $65 million.

• Democrats want to continue the state-funded preschool program. Republicans want to cut $41 million and replace the current program with a scholarship program for people with low incomes.

• Democrats want to maintain current funding for public universities. Republicans want to cut $40 million.

• Democrats want to maintain current funding for higher-education student aid. Republicans want to cut $3.6 million from the Iowa Tuition Grant Program, which provides state financial aid for eligible students.

• Republicans want to cut $14 million for community colleges. Democrats don’t.

• Democrats want to spend $10 million to take a job-training pilot program statewide. Republicans don’t.

• Republicans want to close 39 workforce-development offices. Democrats want to keep them open.

• Republicans want to end the Iowa Values Fund, created under Governor Tom Vilsack. The program provides state grants to businesses that promise to retain or create new jobs in Iowa. Democrats want to continue the program.

• Democrats want to provide a state tax credit to help small businesses provide health benefits for their employees. Republicans don’t.

• Democrats want to spend $10 million for consumer rebates to help homeowners and businesses install small wind and solar projects. Republicans don’t.

Paulsen said 1- or 2-percent allowable growth in school budgets for the 2011-12 school year is possible under House Republicans’ proposal to spend $5.99 billion next fiscal year, but other state-funded programs must be cut.

“First and foremost, we’re not even to Memorial Day yet,” Branstad said Thursday. “These issues can be and should be worked out [by the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1]. I think it’s ridiculous for them to play this kind of game. We went through this in ’92. I brought ’em back again and again to finally get the spending reforms we needed to get, and we finally got that done. I’m willing to put in whatever hours it takes and meet with whoever we need to to get that resolved.”

Leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-led Senate and staff from the governor’s office met again Thursday afternoon following two meetings Tuesday. Paulsen said some progress is being made, and the legislature could adjourn a week after an agreement is reached.

“We’re definitely going to have to pick up the pace to get to the end,” Paulsen said. “But I remain optimistic.”

In addition to the budget, Branstad and lawmakers also continue to insist that property-tax reform will be approved this year.

This article was produced by For more stories on Iowa politics, visit

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