Legislators expect to meet looming deadline


June 30th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Lawmakers spent most of Wednesday grinding away on just a couple of issues, delaying the final adjournment of the 2011 legislative session until sometime today (Thursday). They’re close to the deadline for approving a state budget plan, as the new state budget year begins Friday. The six-month-long effort to strike a deal between the two parties on property tax reform was abandoned Wednesday and legislators focused solely on the final details of the state budget. Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“We have a good group of senators and house members who really worked at it,” Dvorsky says. “And once people of good faith sat down, we were able to move some things forward.” Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“It has taken a long time this year,” Raecker says. “But I believe the end result will be something that people will walk out of the capitol knowing that they did an exceptional job and Iowans will be very proud of the budget that’s been delivered.” A huge budget bill cleared both the Senate and House last night before lawmakers adjourned for the evening. But property tax reform has fallen off the to-do list. Republicans like Senate G-O-P Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton blame Democrats for failing to pass the property tax cut Republican Governor Terry Branstad has been pushing. Democrats like Senator Joe Bolkcom, of Iowa City, fault Republicans for failing to embrace the significantly different property tax relief plan Democrats devised.

The two parties did strike an agreement on education spending, approving a status quo spending plan for K-through-12 schools for the next academic year and a two percent increase in the following year. The House and Senate are scheduled to return to the statehouse this morning (Thursday) to take action on two final bills, including the legislation that has been at the center of the latest abortion fight. Lawmakers faced a looming deadline for final approval of the budget, as the new state fiscal year begins July 1st. One of the two bills scheduled to approval today (Thursday) would ensure the governor has the authority to keep state government operating before he gives his formal approval to each of the budget bills. The governor will have 30 days to review the bills, and he could use his item veto authority on some individual spending items.

(O.Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)