Blame game

Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, and Republican legislative leaders are engaged in a stalemate over the property rights legislation that is tinted with a disagreement over another bill.

Last Friday, during a news conference in Des Moines, State Senator Bob Brunkhorst articulated something many Republican legislators had been complainining about for the past few weeks:  Vilsack’s item veto on the teacher pay bill.  Vilsack used his authority to get rid of the part of the bill that would have created a new commission to set out the new standards by which teachers will forever after have their pay linked to their classroom performance.  Brunkhorst slammed his hand into the lectern and said "Dang it!" when describing how peeved Republicans were for Vilsack violating that part of the deal that was struck in order to end the session.

Vilsack was asked today about backing away from that deal and he tells a completely different story.  He says the deal that ended the session did not include anything about that task force, it just dealt with how much to spend on teacher pay and how many years the plan would cover.  He suggested Brunkhorst wouldn’t know much about the deal because Brunkhorst wasn’t in the room when the deal was struck.  Senate GOP Leaders who were in the room say Vilsack’s version of events is wrong, and that after the terms of the deal had been struck, Senator Paul McKinley met for hours with Vilsack’s staff to spell out the terms of the deal. Statehouse reporters were aware of the behind-the-scenes tedium of drafting that language because McKinley would pop up to the senate floor during breaks in the haggling and tell us about his frustrations. (McKinley’s desk is near the west press bench in the Senate.)

Vilsack has contacted Iowa newspapers to complain about their coverage of his item veto.  Vilsack has cited another reason for his veto:  that the new "commission" wasn’t balanced for gender or party affiliation.  (The governor wrote a letter to the editor published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette a couple of weeks ago on this very topic.)  Vilsack did not mention the gender equity issue at all, though, this afternoon when talking with a gaggle of reporters in Des Moines.   

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.