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Iowa lawmakers have one more day to approve stop-gap budget

Lawmakers have until midnight to tie up loose ends and implement a stop-gap budget solution.

Sessions ran late into the night Wednesday, as lawmakers updated their social media accounts as to what had been settled — and what had not.

Several weeks of budget gridlock has ultimately led the Legislature — now in it’s eighth extended week — to consider a one-month spending bill, with retroactive provisions, as a means to stop government shut down. The bill would be enacted for July 1 to July 31 of this year.

Sitting governors in Iowa cannot transfer funds to agencies while the Legislature remains in session. Without a provision like House Study Bill 248 and no agreed budget, state government would likely face shut down.

The time would also allow Gov. Terry Branstad to examine budgets passed by the Iowa House and Senates, and brought to his desk. Branstad said this week he considered a stop-gap option “appropriate.”

“I think that’s appropriate because when you have massive bills like this, you want adequate time to review and make sure mistakes aren’t made,” Branstad said Monday. “We want to handle that in a way that’s going to be most appropriate, and make sure we have adequate time to carefully scrutinize each item in each of these bills.”

Friday morning, Branstad gave his support of House Study Bill 248 through spokesman Tim Albrecht.

“Gov. Branstad realized this would be a very difficult session,” Albrecht said. “Given the budget mismanagement of the past, we believed it would take up to five years to correct the $900 million budget gap, as well as the games and gimmicks that were commonly used. The fact we were able to do so in just one year is a testament to the magnitude of work done this session by all sides and all parties.”

After the chambers battled over a House Republican omnibus bill, parties in both chambers have struck deals and passed budgets pertaining to economic development, agriculture and natural resources and the judicial system. Lawmakers have also officially struck deals to reduce funding for universal preschool, while keeping the policy intact, and funding two percent allowable growth to school district budgets for fiscal year ’13.

But still in contention are property tax reforms and Medicaid-funded abortions performed at the University of Iowa Hospital. Negotiations on a health and human services budget broke down Wednesday, when the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House sparred over who should be covered by such abortions. Sen. Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) said late Wednesday that while parties were close to the funding number, they were miles apart on the policy.

Republicans wanted to limit Medicaid-funded abortions to cases of miscarriage and to protect the lives of pregnant women. Democrats argued this would exclude rape and incest victims, and cases of fetal abnormality, currently covered by HHS budget, and have been for decades. Hatch warned Democrats would not waver on their stance.

Property tax, an adamant priority of Branstad’s this session, has also remained unresolved, as chambers cannot agree on a proposal, leaving its future unknown.

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