Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he wants House and Senate budget negotiators to resolve their differences over spending levels and proposed reforms for property taxes, education and mental health next week.
"We're not that far apart and we need to get this resolved," Branstad said in an interview. "I think it's important for them to come back on Monday, get serious and get it done next week. We want to work with them to get it resolved."
Branstad said leaders of the GOP majority in the House and Democratic majority in the Senate have agreed to an overall $6.244 billion level for general fund spending beginning July 1, but details of how those funds will be dispersed in individual budget areas still need to be worked out.
House leaders say they've agreed to spend significantly more than their initial fiscal 2013 target and won't go higher, while Senate negotiators say they want to provide adequate resources for education, job training and retraining and other priority areas that are underfunded by Republicans.
Officials for both sides say they continue to advance, but the progress has slowed as they work to close a remaining gap of tens of millions of dollars between their competing approaches.
"I don't think laying down ultimatums is helpful, so I don't really want to lay down an ultimatum," said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. "But I would say we have moved a long, long ways. We've tried to be respectful of Senate Democrats' priorities, the governor's priorities, but we have largely given everything. We have nothing left to give I guess."
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said there is $60 million slated to flow into a taxpayer relief fund in fiscal 2013 that could be used to address a GOP demand to provide an extra $27.5 million for property tax credits to local governments - an idea that Republicans say would be using one-time money to finance an ongoing expense in violation of their budget-making principles to avoid past practices that led to state imbalances.
"We're trying to get a budget that we think reflects what Iowans need," Gronstal said. "There are strong feelings about the issues that confront our state. We strongly believe we need a world-class community college system that's there to train workers for the jobs of today and to retrain workers for the jobs of tomorrow. We think that's very important. We think the House significantly underfunds that effort. We think they're driving tuitions too high at regent institutions.
Branstad on Friday said he is concerned this year could become a repeat of last session, when the split-control Legislature went 172 days and "drug on and one" before resolving their differences on June 30 to avert the threat of a state government shutdown when the current fiscal year began July 1.
Branstad said he has set aside time in schedule next week to meet with House and Senate leaders if that will help facilitate a resolution on the budget and the other remaining priority issues and end a session that will be 13 days beyond the adjournment target when lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday.