State budget negotiators say they are making significant progress on resolving their differences over fiscal 2013 spending levels.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said legislative leaders and Gov. Terry Branstad have settled on an overall general fund spending level that is close to the $6.24 billion proposal the governor outlined in January. Still unresolved, however, is whether additional spending will be authorized from sources considered outside of the general fund or whether that money will have to come from within the overall general-fund number, negotiators indicated.
“We came down significantly,” Gronstal said.
When talks began House Republicans had proposed an overall budget of $6.06 billion, Branstad favored a $6.24 billion spending level and Senate Democrats were seeking up to $6.33 billion to fund state government for the 12-month period that commences on July 1.
“The budget differences continue to narrow, and all parties continue to negotiate toward an agreed-to number,” said Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht. “We are pleased with the progress we are making and are confident we will come to an agreement on a balanced budget that spends less than we take in and is sustainable for the future.”
Once top lawmakers and the governor have finalized the size of the fiscal 2013 state budget pie, House-Senate conference committee members will be given spending targets they will use to carve up the available funds.
Tuesday marked the 2012 session’s 100th calendar day – the benchmark when legislators’ daily expense ends and a traditional harbinger that adjournment will not be far off. Some lawmakers have not ruled out the possibility of wrapping up this year’s session by week’s end but leaders say it’s more likely final adjournment will arrive some time next week.
Along with a budget agreement, other priorities that have not been resolved include revamping the property tax system to cut rates for commercial and industrial classes while minimizing impacts on other property classes and local government entities; redesigning Iowa’s county-based mental health system into a regional network; and beginning the process of reforming Iowa’s educational system.