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

Late this morning the Iowa Senate took about half an hour to pass four bills on which the two parties have compromised.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says it’s time to reach common ground on the state budget and avoid a state government shut down next month. 

“We’re making real progress,” Gronstal says. “We’re confident we’ll continue to make progress next week and get a state budget done.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, agrees with those sentiments. 
“We have a whole host of options,” Paulsen says. “But we’re going to do what we need to do to make sure state government operates.”

There have been agreements on some components of the state budget, namely economic development priorities, public safety initiatives and spending for the departments of agriculture and natural resources.  Those budgets were outlined in three of the four bills which cleared the Senate late this morning. However, the two parties still haven’t agreed on the largest portion of the state budget — education spending. Gronstal admits that’s a sticking point. 

“I do not believe all of our differences have been solved,” Gronstal says. “We’re going to continue to fight for the things we believe in, but as you can see we’re able to make progress and, you know, (Republicans) can’t force (Democrats) to act, and (Democrats) can’t force (Republicans) to act. We recognize that.” 

The two parties have agreed to a status quo spending level on K-12 public schools for the academic year that begins this fall. House Republicans propose a two percent increase in the following year, while Senate Democrats propose a three percent bump in general state aid to public schools. Paulsen says other education issues, like the level of state spending on preschool, haven’t been resolved either.

“But, at the same time, we’re also slowly working through those pieces,” Paulsen says. “And there’s pieces of those budgets that we’ve now come to agreement on.”

The next state fiscal year begins on Friday, July 1. Both the House and the Senate are off for the weekend, scheduled to reconvene on Monday, facing that deadline.