House and Senate Wrapping Up Budget Bill Debate Within Own Chambers

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It's the biggest item Iowa lawmakers debate each year. Both chambers must decide on how to split up billions of dollars in state revenue.

Over the past few weeks, both sides have released their target budgets. The house wants to spend $7.175 billion, while the senate wants to spend $7.341 billion.

"We look at the policies, come to an agreement, and find common ground,” said State Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Senate District 32.

"We're working hard to get us in a position to adjourn,” said State Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from House District 5.

The hard work is coming at the 11th hour. The session is supposed to end on Friday.

Instead of compromise, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are taking up competing budget bills. Before adjourning for Wednesday, the senate hopes to pass ten budget bills. Among them is funding for higher education.

Senator Schoenjahn wants to increase funding for Iowa's three state universities in exchange for a tuition freeze for a third straight year.

"It's a massive bill. It’s over a $1 billion bill,” Schoenjahn said.

Once the senate passes these budget bills, they will send them on to the house for debate. House representatives are going through the same process.

On Wednesday, Republicans went into caucus debating an infrastructure bill that would fund maintenance of state buildings.

"What the infrastructure bill does is takes gaming money and uses it for vertical infrastructure,” Soderberg said.

On Thursday, the house will take up education and administration and regulations appropriations.

Next week the house will take up the senate bills, and the senate, the bills approved in the house.

Both sides already know where the proposals are likely headed.

"The process is we'll amend their bills, vote it down, they will amend ours, vote it down, and we'll go to conference,” Schoenjahn told Channel 13 News.

Neither side is expecting this to be a fast process. Representatives from both the house and senate said they expect to be working a couple of weeks into May.

As for K-12 education, a big part of the budget, there are still no meetings scheduled between the conference committee in charge of hashing out that issue.

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