- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa will have about $7.35 billion to spend for the fiscal year that begins in July, House Republicans announced Thursday, a new calculation that likely means Gov. Terry Branstad and Senate Democrats will have to scale back their proposed budgets.

House leaders said the new number is in response to the latest revenue projections, announced Wednesday by state budget experts, who determined Iowa will have lower-than-expected sales tax collections in the next fiscal year. However, there is about $176 million in new money available than what was in the current fiscal year budget.

Iowa law requires the Legislature to balance the budget every year. The new figure will not affect the House, which released lower budget targets a few weeks ago, said Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford and chairman of the Appropriation Committee.

“This proves the point that you need to use conservative budgeting principles when putting a budget together,” he said. The House Republicans’ budget is about $7.32 billion.

Branstad and Democrats confirmed the new estimate Thursday, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said his chamber is determining new budget numbers but he did not provide details. The original Senate budget proposal proposes spending roughly $7.39 billion.

“We continue to work very quickly. The pie has been set,” he said.

Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes said the governor’s office is reviewing the information. Branstad released budget recommendations in January that estimated spending about $7.41 billion.

Republicans say the revenue projections add clarity as lawmakers seek agreement on the next budget, and the availability of about $176 million could provide more money for basic aid for K-12 education, which has been a sticking point for Senate Democrats.

Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City and chairman of the House Education Committee, said he and other lawmakers are working out the details, but he could see more money on the issue.

“I think that’s what we’re trying to lead towards doing as much as we possibly can but still being cognizant of the other needs around the state, too,” he said.

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