Budget talks break down at Statehouse

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Budget talks broke off Friday with Republicans and Democrats pointing the finger of blame at each other.

House Speaker Chris Rants, R-Sioux City, said Republicans offered a three-year plan increasing teacher pay by $105 million, and would slow down implementation of their phase-out of the state's income tax on pensions and Social Security.

"It's our final offer," Rants said. "This is as good at is gets."

Republicans said Democrats summarily rejected the offer, but Democrats say it's Republicans who ended talks.

"We were willing to compromise on every front," said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, of Council Bluffs. "We were willing to go along with them and work with them."

The two sides have been negotiating for weeks, and the final sticking points are the size of a teacher pay increase and the Republicans' proposed cut in pension taxes. Those two issues proved insurmountable, leaders on both sides said.

Lawmakers were likely to approve a bare-bones budget that includes no tax cuts and no teacher pay increase to end this year's session.

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