The top Republican in the legislature hints there’ll be a new proposal unveiled this week to spend some of the state’s nearly $900 million surplus on state-owned infrastructure. 

 “It’s not uncommon for an Iowan to use their savings account to put a new roof on their house,” says House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha. “There are some things out there like that I think would make good public policy and make good fiscal sense.”

But Paulsen says Republicans will insist that a good chunk of the state surplus is returned to taxpayers, by reducing taxes in some fashion. Republicans earlier this year called for a $375 tax credit for every individual Iowa taxpayer and the GOP has also floated the idea of a tax rebate.

Only a couple of dozen lawmakers are at the statehouse today as legislative leaders met privately to review the competing state spending plans Republicans and Democrats have devised. Paulsen says Democrats have drafted an overall state budget that spends “several hundred million more” than Republicans propose.

“I think it’s manageable,” Paulsen says. “But it’s still a pretty big number.”

Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says Democrats favor spending up to $300 million more on state government operations.

“We’ve shrunken government the last several years now to places where it hardly operates,” Dvorsky says. “We’re not growing anything. We’re just trying to maintain the status quo at best.”

All the major issues, including education reform, have to be resolved before the 2013 legislative session can conclude. The 10-member group appointed weeks ago to come up with a compromise on education reform didn’t meet last week and it isn’t scheduled to meet today either, yet Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says he’s “optimistic” a deal can be struck this week.

“I’d say people have constructively been working on finding common ground,” Gronstal told reporters today.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says she and Republican Governor Terry Branstad have been meeting regularly with Republican legislative leaders, but not with Gronstal, the top Democrat in the legislature.