A possible breakthrough in budget talks at the statehouse isn’t keeping Governor Branstad from following through on the rest of his 43-city tour of the state, a tour designed to tout the Republican recipe for ending the budget stalemate. Branstad began the tour last Monday and he’ll hold events in five cities today.

“I’ve been very encouraged by the people that have turned out and the interest there is on resolving this and people know this is a tough issue and the legislature has taken the easy way out too often and balanced the budget by using gimmicks,” Branstad says. “…People tell me they appreciate that I’m trying to do the heavy lifting and make sure that we do it and make sure that we have a budget that’s sustainable.”

The governor says he’ll be “directly involved” in negotiations later, but until then Branstad says he has “complete trust” in the way his chief of staff and budget director are handling negotiations with legislators. “They’ve kept me fully informed,” Branstad says. “…I just want to make sure we do it right, we do it well….and I think the people of Iowa will appreciate it in the long term.”

Last week the Iowa House passed a massive bill that outlined the Republican plans for state spending over the next two years as well as a plan to reduce property taxes, and it appears there was some sort of breakthrough in the private negotiations between the two parties on Thursday.

But Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says there are some policy items in the House Republicans’ package that just won’t fly in the Democratically-led Senate. “From a senator’s perspective who has reached across the aisle, tried to make things work, give people an opportunity to be proud of Iowa and the work that we do here, I’m incredibly disappointed by the bill that was passed by the House,” Danielson says.

Last Thursday the top Republican in the Iowa House suggested a final budget deal could be struck this week and the 2011 legislative session could finally conclude for the year. Danielson has his doubts. “I think that’s irrationally optimistic,” he says.

The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate issued a statement late last week, saying he’s confident the two parties can reach an agreement that win support from both Democrats and Republicans in the state senate, and “avert” a state government shut-down. The state’s current budgeting year ends June 30th and legislators haven’t yet approved a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1st.