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Branstad, Gronstal Exchange Barbs over Water Quality

Joyce Russell/IPR
Gov. Terry Branstad, weekly news conference, May 2, 2016

Governor Branstad and the top Democrat in the Iowa Senate exchanged harsh words Monday over the legislature's failure to approve a plan for water quality improvements before adjourning last week.    

Governor Branstad's proposal to tap school infrastructure dollars to raise billions of dollars for water quality fell flat.  

Credit John Pemble/IPR
Sen. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal

On a bipartisan vote, the House passed a bill to divert money from other state programs but the bill was not debated in the Senate.  

Branstad says Majority Leader Mike Gronstal wasn't serious about doing something about water quality this year.

"He's trying to blame somebody else for his unwillingness as a majority leader to debate an important issue," Branstad said.  "I think he's going to have to be held accountable for that."

Branstad added, "It's up to the voters to decide."

"Solving Iowa's water quality problems will require a sincere, bipartisan approach," Gronstal responded in a statement.

Under the House Bill, money for water quality would have come from funds normally spent on infrastructure and education.

"Taking money from one priority – public schools – and giving it to another priority  – water quality – was met with bipartisan opposition in the Senate," Gronstal said, "and statewide opposition from education advocates."

"He's the one that blocked it," Branstad said.  "He's the one that wouldn't let it be debated."

It's estimated it will take as much as $4 billion dollars to meet federal water quality standards. 

"We think water quality is important and should not be put off," he said.

Branstad says in the past it took as many as three legislative sessions to approve property tax cuts and education reform.