Senate Democrat leader Mike Gronstal, Senate President Jack Kibbie. (L-R)

The Democrat leader of the Iowa Senate said this morning that they are not that far away from an agreement on the budget that could prevent a shut down.

Senator Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says they’ve agreed to a spending cap and a two-year budget that Republicans want — as well as zero-percent increase in the spending for schools.

Gronstal says agreement on allowable growth for schools is too strong a word, but they “accepted the reality” that there is no way the House is going to change its stance on increasing allowable growth, nor has the governor.

Gronstal says they have an agreement with Republicans to increase school spending by 2% in the second year of the budget, but he says they will try to up that to 3%.

Gronstal released a list of some 47 things that he says Democrats have agreed to work with Republicans on to move toward getting the budget done. There are several things that remain up in the air. He says they continue to “struggle through the issues relative to how much were’re gonna to invest in” community colleges, the regents, early childhood education issues beyond preschool.

Another thing also still up in the air is property tax relief. Gronstal says they are still in negotiations with the governor and Republicans on the issue. Gronstal says they’ve had meetings and there will be language in the bill they release later that has some of the House language relative to a property tax limitation. He says he is “cautiously optimistic” they will find an agreement on property tax relief.

Republicans propose a 25% cut in the tax rates on commercial and industrial property while Democrats propose a direct tax credit for business owners. Both sides have accused the other of wanting to shut down the government at the end of the fiscal year on June 30th. Both sides are also denying they want a shutdown, and Gronstal today would not even talk about what might happen if they can’t get a budget done.

“I’m not talking about the event that it doesn’t get done,” Gronstal said. Gronstall says he wants to remain positive that they will get the budget worked out instead of worrying about what might happen in the event of a shutdown. Senate Democrats are holding committee meetings on the budget today and should vote on the proposals Tuesday.