By now, most Iowans are aware that the bi-partisan budget discussions in Des Moines have come to a screeching halt.
As the 2011 legislative session enters its sixth different month, Iowans are rightly asking why.
The answer is not complicated as you might think once you understand what is at stake.
For weeks, Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, the House of Representatives and Senate Republicans have been in complete agreement that the state will not spend more than $5.99 billion dollars. We have made it crystal clear that we stand for responsible and sustainable budgets that do not include the reckless budgeting gimmicks that have imperiled the state’s budget during the last few years.
On the flip side, Senate Democrats have demanded that the state continue to spend more money. In fact, their spending demands would actually continue to have the state spend more money than it takes in. Their budgets would continue to rely heavily on one-time dollars to pay for ongoing expenses and would be a continuation of the Culver budgeting practices that lead us to deep across-the-board cuts and four years of fiscal volatility.
Though both sides had their differences, all parties had been meeting regularly and the talks were productive. Progress was being made. Leaders from both sides were offering compromises. A light was beginning to show at the end of the tunnel.
Then, suddenly, it all quickly came unraveled.
After Senator Gronstal met with the other 25 Senate Democrats in hours of closed door meetings on Thursday, May 26, they came back to House leaders and Governor Branstad and made it clear they were not interested in continuing the bi-partisan discussions.
Senate Democrats chose to walk away.
They abandoned the discussions that were leading toward common sense compromises and agreements.
As a result, with less than a month until the budget deadline, Senate Democrats seem to be pushing the state ever closer to a government shutdown.
Prominent Senate Democrats, many weeks ago, started floating the idea of shutting down state government over demands to spend more money and now it appears likely that they are orchestrating their plan.
If Senate Democrats are successful in shutting down state government, that outcome will have serious consequences for the timely funding for our schools and other government entities like our state troopers, prison guards, health and food inspectors and child protection services among many, many others.
Make no mistake, a shutdown of Iowa’s government would send negative reverberations throughout every community, county and school in this state. Senate Republicans know Iowans do not want that.
However, there is still time to come to a resolution. All hope is not yet lost, though the clock is ticking.
We can still come to an agreement if Senate Democrats are willing to come back to the table and negotiate in good faith.
Now is not the time to walk away from the table because of ideology or added spending demands.
Now is the time to join together, work out our differences and move the state forward in a bi-partisan fashion.
We believe that is what Iowans expect from their elected leaders.
As always, Senate Republicans stand ready to help and assist in any way possible.
That is, after all, what we were elected to do.
State Senator Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) is the Iowa Senate Minority Leader