Iowa Gov: Top lawmakers agree on overall budget
DES MOINES, Iowa—Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that he and legislative leaders agree on overall state spending and he is confident lawmakers will approve changes to Iowa's property tax system.
"I'm pretty optimistic," said Branstad, speaking at his weekly news conference. "We have a general agreement overall in terms of the overall budget."
The governor conceded that many of the details still must be ironed out, even as lawmakers look to end the legislative session by the end of the week.
Branstad wouldn't give an overall figure for the budget, but spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor is endorsing a $6.242 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. That figure falls between the numbers Republicans and Democrats had supported. This fiscal year's budget is just under $6 billlion.
"There's a lot of work to be done, but we have a general agreement that it's critically important that we do provide additional funding for higher education, including the Regents and community colleges and the tuition grant program," Branstad said.
Top lawmakers warned hammering out the details won't be easy.
"We are continuing to negotiate," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.
Branstad also said the state is moving closer to a property tax deal. House Republicans and Branstad have pushed for deep cuts in business property taxes.
The governor had proposed an across-the-board cut of 40 percent in business property taxes over eight years, while Senate Democrats wanted a much smaller reduction aimed at small businesses. The two sides are negotiating details of a $250 million package that would contain elements of both.
"It's a significant step forward that would protect residential and agricultural taxpayers," the governor said.
Branstad said he has compromised on key elements of his legislative agenda, a nod to a deeply divided Legislature.
"If you want the perfect, ideal solution, you may not get anything," he said.
Branstad also said he will continue to push for school reforms that deal with student testing and raising standards for teachers. The House and Senate have passed sharply different versions, though House version hews closer to the governor's original proposal.