- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers returned to the state Capitol Tuesday with final action on the budget still pending.

The full membership of the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate reported for duty, as lawmakers work to wrap up the legislative session, possibly later this week. Both sides started voting on budget bills, with a judicial branch budget winning approval in both chambers.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R- Hiawatha, said lawmakers “should be able to get this done this week.”

Under a compromise financial plan revealed Monday, the state will spend about $7.3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. The tentative deal includes $7.168 billion in ongoing spending, plus $125 million in one-time expenses. As it is structured, the House maintains a pledge to keep ongoing spending in line with projected revenues, while the Senate gets some more money for key priorities such as education.

Daily expense payments for lawmakers ran out May 1, but they cannot adjourn until reaching a budget agreement for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said they were making “quite reasonable progress,” though he added, “There’s always a few wrinkles, and I’d just say I’m a pretty good ironer.”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate approved a $174.6 million budget for the state’s judicial branch. Democrats had originally sought more funding for judicial services. But Republicans said the state could not afford more ongoing spending. Sen. Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, said he expected there would be additional dollars for the judicial system in another budget.

The House also approved a $992.2 million education spending plan Tuesday that would cover state universities, community colleges and other programs. The Senate may consider that bill - a compromise between both sides - on Wednesday.

Another issue approved in the House Tuesday was a small funding increase for K-12 education in the 2016-2017 school year, but it was not expected to win favor in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The House approved a plan that would provide about $125 million in new dollars in that year, with some of the money going to a teacher leadership program. But Democrats said the funding level was inadequate.

Lawmakers have reached a tentative agreement on funding for the coming school year.

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