Legislators stayed at home Monday to attend their Caucuses last night (Monday), but they’re back in the statehouse today (Tuesday) with a major item on the to-do list. Democrats and Republicans are trying to reach a quick agreement on state spending on K-through-12 schools — for the school year that starts in the fall. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake, the legislature’s top Republican leader, says “We can do it sooner or we can do it later and there’s no reason not to do it sooner.”
Upmeyer said also, “Our members are talking about this. We’re working with the Senate. We’re visiting with the governor. We’re all looking at this.” Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says Democrats are leery of the Republican governor’s involvement since Branstad unexpectedly vetoed some education spending last summer.
“So it really behooves the House and Senate to work together, see if we can come to an agree-to number and pass that,” he says. Last year’s school spending debate in the legislature lasted for months, but — like Upmeyer — Gronstal is urging a speedy decision. “Spending an extra two-and-a-half or three months for something that ends up gets vetoed doesn’t really make sense,” Gronstal says. “And so we’re going to strongly encourage our folks to find a way to reach agreement.”
Whatever compromise may be reached must clear the Democratically-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House. The negotiating positions heading in have House Republicans offering a two percent boost in state support of schools. Democrats are calling for twice that much. Governor Branstad’s recommendation is in between — a two-point-45 percent increase.