The House and Senate continued work on major budget bills and moved virtually every budget to a conference committee status (meaning both sides are at impasse and each Chamber appoints five members to attempt resolution). Lacking an overall agreement on the total budget number, it is impossible to set the joint target numbers for each individual budget bill.
Decisions Key to Adjournment
Two key decisions must be made before the House and Senate can make a true run for adjournment:
There had been hope last week that a compromise that resolved the difference with a combination of new dollars in the permanent funding base and an additional amount of one-time spending could bridge the gap. Unfortunately, that proposal has yet to move the needle and the issue remains unresolved.
2. Overall Spending Total: before any true run to adjournment can begin, House and Senate leadership must agree on a total spending level for the general fund. To date, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are $182 million apart in total spending. Again, while there have been significant talks ongoing behind the scenes involving House and Senate leadership (and the Governor’s office), there has been no real progress reported.
Next week the Iowa Senate will NOT be in a position to conduct any business that requires a constitutional majority. What this means is that Senate Democrats will not have their normal 26 members in town until the Tuesday after Memorial Day and that means any bill that needs all 26 Democrats to pass (meaning EVERY budget bill, as Senate Republicans have consistently locked up as 24 NO votes on every budget bill).
The House is expected back on Monday and Tuesday to continue work on a key budget bill and bounce it to a conference committee. However, they too will likely be out the remainder of that week and not back for full business until May 26.
However, during the week the budget and policy negotiations between the leaders of each Chamber and the Governor’s office will continue. There is some hope that those talks will lead to decisions that will set up the week of May 26 to be the final week of the 2015 General Assembly (we can always hope!).