Lawmakers to tackle budget & property taxes before adjourning - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lawmakers will tackle budget & property tax reform before adjourning

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Just a few days remain until the targeted end of Iowa's 2012 legislative session.

Lawmakers will mark 100 days at the statehouse on April 17th. But eastern Iowa legislators agree it will take at least three more weeks to finish work on several major bills -- although they aren't that far apart on some of the main issues.

Only about $200 million separates the House and Senate spending plans. Senate Democrats would like to see a $6.2 billion budget. House Republicans are aiming to spend less.

"It's kind of like this tug-of-war, or game. One party throws out the targets, and the other pushes back," said Rep. Walt Rogers, (R) Cedar Falls.

As expected, the budget is at the top of lawmakers' priority list. But they are also hoping to tackle property tax reform -- an issue left over from the 20-11 session.

"Our program gives across-the-board cuts in all areas and essentially in the end would give about a billion dollar property tax cut in the out years," Rogers said.

"We really believe the way we're doing it is more like a reimbursement back on the taxes. It's the best way to go and you could give it to everybody," said Sen. Bill Dotzler, (D) Waterloo.

Another big one -- how to reform Iowa's education system, and how to pay for it.

"Everybody believes in education in Iowa and wants the best -- it should be our top priority. The hard part is, what are those details in the end that make education the best?" Rogers noted.

Both parties say, so far, negotiations are going well. Although they expect things to heat up as they fight through the final details.

"So far we've been working together. Although, we haven't been really forced right up to the line and eyeballed each other yet. And that's coming next week," Dotzler said.

This week, the statehouse was on lockdown while Hazmat crews investigated a threatening letter sent to a member of the House. Both Dotzler and Rogers said the experience brought legislators closer together -- explaining, they may have different points of view, but at the end of the day they respect one another.

There are a few other bills which may come up for debate -- Dotzler calls them "bouncing bills." Those include a plan from MidAmerican Energy to build a nuclear power plant in Iowa, and raise rates to pay for its construction. Rogers would like to see the full Senate vote on the red light camera ban passed in the House.

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