No acceptable reason for budget impasse
Four months after the Iowa Legislature convened and more than a week after the session was scheduled to end, lawmakers haven’t agreed on a budget.
As a backdrop to the budget stalemate, Iowans only recently began hearing the first whispers of a possible state government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
We understand the Legislature is divided this year with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in control of the Senate, but give us a break. In our view, no acceptable reason exists for the fact the Legislature has been unable (or unwilling) to reach agreement on a state budget and end its session.
Both sides share responsibility for the impasse.
When lawmakers arrived in Des Moines in early January, everyone knew (or should have known) the budget would be priority number one and Gov. Terry Branstad would insist (as he pledged in his campaign to do) on two-year spending plans from state departments. Why some members of the Legislature act and sound as if they just learned those facts is a mystery to us.
Unfortunately, this legislative session follows to an extreme a maddening pattern with which we have become familiar through the years: Lawmakers waste valuable time early on instead of getting right to work, are too easily distracted from major issues by minor side issues and counterproductive controversies, and wait to get serious about the real meat — like the budget — until late in the session when the clock is ticking and the pressure is on.
Are we unrealistic, even naive about how all of this works? Perhaps, but we believe most residents of the state find partisan gridlock on the budget this year just as frustrating and unacceptable as we do.
What will it take to get a budget agreement? Your guess is as good as ours at this point, although it seems reasonable to focus attention on the Senate since Branstad and the House are largely in agreement. Perhaps what’s needed is some sort of reasoned, middle-of-the-road “Gang of Six” as we see at work on the federal budget deficit within the U.S. Senate. What’s not needed are more unproductive news conferences and rhetorical bomb-throwing (OK, Sen. Gronstal?).
Will agreement on a budget be reached? Of course. Do we think state government will shut down first? No. Do we think all of the drama was entirely avoidable? Absolutely.
We believe we speak for most Iowans when we say: For the greater good of your state, ladies and gentlemen, get this done. And sooner rather than later.
This editorial excerpt, provided by The Associated Press, first appeared May 8 in the Sioux City Journal.