By Associated Press - Friday, May 22, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Progress has been made in determining Iowa’s overall budget spending for the next fiscal year, lawmakers said Friday, including talks on K-12 education.

Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal made the assessment together following another round of meetings at the Capitol. They said they’re optimistic, despite not reaching a deal yet.

“Basically we’re going to go back and confirm what we think we know … and understand of each other’s various different ideas,” said Paulsen, of Hiawatha.

The divided Legislature has been at odds for weeks over how much to spend on the overall budget, including school funding. Lawmakers have also previously indicated potential breakthroughs in the talks, only for things to stall.

But Paulsen gave some signs he thought the session could really end soon: He predicted lawmakers may debate budget bills as early as Wednesday. Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, didn’t offer a similar timetable.

“We’ll have to cross that bridge Tuesday,” Gronstal said, referring to when legislators were expected back at the Capitol after the Memorial Day weekend.

Gronstal also indicated his office was communicating with various departments over proposed numbers, another sign a compromise could be reached soon.

“We continue to be hopeful that we will get this done as soon as we can,” he said.

Neither lawmaker elaborated on potential concessions over the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The Senate and Gov. Terry Branstad have proposed overall general fund budgets of about $7.34 billion. House Republicans want to spend $7.17 billion. For schools, the two sides are about $50 million apart.

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