Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad this morning said he believes the state can afford to send Iowa’s public schools a 2.45 percent increase in general state aid for the next school year.

“I think this is an extraordinary commitment, especially in light of the fact that we’ve had to reduce spending in other areas of the budget,” Branstad told reporters during his weekly news conference.

Branstad will release his  plan for the entire state budget tomorrow. He’s carving out a $145 million increase in state support of public schools. That includes the percentage increase he’s recommending in general state aid, plus about $53 million more for a teacher leadership program. Branstad told reporters it’s a tight budget, because state tax collections are lagging.

“This year revenue is down from we anticipated it would be last year, so I think this shows that we have made an extraordinary commitment to reduce spending in other areas in order to do this,” Branstad said.

The Republican governor is urging legislators to make the decision about general school funding quickly rather than engage in a months-long stand-off like they did last year. Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, said that’s the goal for Democrats.

“Certainly all of us have a desire to get this done quickly. We don’t want to see a repeat of the 2015 session and that was what held us up,” Jochum told reporters this morning. “…It’s good news that the governor is above where the House currently is.”

House Republicans last year signaled they want a two percent general boost in state support of schools for the next budgeting year. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake said Republicans “are committed” to making the school funding decision early.

“Education is clearly a bipartisan priority in this building,” Upmeyer said.

The Iowa House and Senate convened shortly after 10 a.m. this morning. Governor Branstad will deliver his “Condition of the State” message tomorrow at 10 a.m. and Branstad says there won’t be any big surprises in the speech or the budget plan he’ll present to lawmakers tomorrow.