DES MOINES — Negotiations to reach a compromise on tax cut and budget differences intensified Tuesday as Senate Republicans issued spending targets close to House GOP numbers released a day earlier, and Gov. Kim Reynolds canceled trip to New York to facilitate deal making.
“Once we have a tax plan agreement, then I think the numbers will fall into place in short order,” said Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, shortly before his caucus issued fiscal 2019 budget targets that were about $5 million below the House’s $7.489 billion spending plan.
Senators spent much of Tuesday’s session saying farewell to three retiring members during three hours of floor speeches, while key leaders on the tax-cut and budget issues spent time in closed discussions and the House Appropriations Committee advanced five budget bills to the House for debate. The session marked its 100th day Tuesday, and now heads into overtime.
“There’s been a lot of positive movement,” said Schneider. “I think we’re getting closer and closer to one another on where things will end up with the tax plan and once that’s finalized then we will be able to resolve the budget.”
Reynolds issued a statement saying she will not travel to New York this week on a previously scheduled economic development trip, but rather would will stay in Des Moines to work with House and Senate leaders on tax and other legislative issues. Acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg will go to New York in the governor’s place.
The Senate GOP targets were fairly close to the numbers House Republicans issued Monday, with $2 million more each for education and human services but $3 million less to justice systems’ programs and $5.5 million less for standing appropriations.
Senators say they would provide funding increases for regent universities, community colleges, corrections, courts and public safety, while fully funding Medicaid, mental health, the governor’s Future Ready Iowa plan and the property tax backfill for local governments. They also would pay back money borrowed from reserves to balance the current general fund budget.
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The Senate plan includes a $50 million increase for K-12 schools to provide the previously approved a 1 percent boost in supplemental state aid and equity money for transportation and other costs.
It was projected to provide a $156 million ending balance on June 30, 2019.
Over in the House, during Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee, representatives unanimously approved transportation and courts budgets but the run of bipartisanship didn’t last as the committee waded into budgets for agriculture and natural resources, corrections and economic development for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Although Republican budget subcommittee chairmen highlighted increases in the various budgets, Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, said they were merely “rearranging the deck chairs” by taking funds from one line to increase another.
“These budgets show that new dollars are being invested there, except they are being made whole to where these departments and agencies would have been several years ago,” said Hall, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “They are not actually improving the quality of life or services that taxpayers expect.”
The approvals are part of the overall House GOP plan to spend $7.489 billion next year, an increase of $235 million or 3.2 percent over the current budget, which was reduced in March because state revenue did not meet earlier projections.
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