- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa legislative leaders met privately Thursday in an effort to find a compromise on the budget for the next fiscal year.

Lawmakers in the Republican-led House and Democratic-majority Senate are trying to determine an overall spending level, as well as find consensus on education funding, which has been a key sticking point in the budget process. A compromise deal could include a budget increase in basic aid for K-12 schools, as well as a one-time payment.

Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, said after the meeting that they had made some progress, but not reached an overall agreement yet and would meet again next week. She said that adjourning next week would be “rather challenging.”

Legislators must resolve the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 before they can conclude the session; daily expense payments for lawmakers ended May 1. Budget bills are moving through the legislative process and should be negotiated in joint committees next week.

Rep. Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, declined to discuss details of the ongoing negotiations.

“I think anytime we’re here, we’re making progress in the process. Discussion is good, and that’s kind of where we’re at,” he said.

The major sticking point this year has been how much money is available to spend. Senate Democrats and Gov. Terry Branstad support using some surplus money to balance the budget, but House Republicans say the state should not spend more than the projected revenue for the coming fiscal year.

With the Senate and Branstad proposing overall general fund budgets of about $7.34 billion and House Republicans seeking to spend $7.17 billion, the numbers are not far apart.

Branstad said Thursday that he’d like to see resolution soon, but stressed that he’d like lawmakers to agree on school funding for the next two school years.

“I think it’s critically important that we not have another fight next year over this same issue,” he said.

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