Despite the Legislature's partisan divide, the chairmen of key budget committees said they're confident that lawmakers will agree to a spending plan and close a budget gap of up to $300 million relatively quickly.
Speaking Friday on the Iowa Public Television program "Iowa Press," Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, and Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, agreed they ultimately would reach a deal. The men head the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Raecker says Republicans and Democrats agree on most issues, and know they must compromise.
"Every two years we go to the voters and have them give us direction," Raecker said. "The last direction they gave us was divided government. We have to come together and resolve our differences."
Dvorsky said he's served in the Legislature during all kinds of partisan divisions and noted that lawmakers always find solutions. He says one of the best budgets crafted at the Statehouse came a few years ago when the parties shared control of the Senate.
This year's state budget bargaining for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is complicated by the November election, as well as Republicans running the House, Democrats controlling the Senate and both having to deal with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.
Dvorsky argued that divided government is the rule, not the exception in Iowa. He said that though Republicans and Democrats are competitive, both parties have learned the fine art of compromise.
House Republicans are calling for a state budget of about $6 billion, while Branstad has requested one for just over $6.2 billion. Senate Democrats want to provide even more money.
Raecker said he's confident that lawmakers have developed a record that either party can defend on the campaign trail.
"I think if you look at the totality of what we've accomplished in the last two years we will have far more things that we agreed on than we disagreed on," said Raecker. "We will have moved forward in Iowa with a lot of progress on many areas. I think we've got a strong record to take back to voters."
Dvorsky said all of the budget plans are reasonably conservative and call for spending less than 97 percent of the money the state is projected to collect.
"We are clearly not overspending," said Dvorsky.April 17 is the target date to end this year's session, though most lawmakers concede it might run a few days longer. There is no statutory end to a legislation session, but legislators' daily expense payments end April 17, which traditionally nudges the session toward adjournment.