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Closed-door budget negotiations to continue for key lawmakers

DES MOINES — Most lawmakers will stay in their home districts this week while legislative leaders continue their closed-door budget negotiations in Des Moines.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha said he doesn’t expect to call Republican House members back to the Capitol this week, but he was optimistic that negotiations “have turned a corner” in recent days.

“We’re getting into more details now,” Paulsen said after finishing a Friday morning taping of the “Iowa Press” public affairs program for Iowa Public Television. “For example, we had a very good conversation about education … Don’t misunderstand, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I still think we had a productive week.”

The productiveness may have been in doubt early last week when Democrats and Republicans took swipes at one another: Gov. Terry Branstad saying there was “a new sheriff in town,” and Democrats putting up an online countdown to shutdown clock.

The current year budget ends on June 30. If there is no agreement made by then, government offices could close. Of course, lawmakers could pass extended or temporary budgets to move beyond the deadline.

Republicans suggested that it was the Democrats who were pushing for a shutdown because they frequently brought it up during their public comments.

“Pre-emptively blaming Democrats for a future government shutdown won’t work,” Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said on Friday. “I hope the ridiculous accusation that Democrats want a government shutdown means Republicans are starting to realize that their game of ‘budget chicken’ with education and economic development isn’t popular with Iowans.”

While budget negotiations may have slowed down business under the dome, the caucus season outside the Capitol grounds is starting to pick up.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to formally announce his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president today.

Pawlenty’s supporters say he’s a Republican who can appeal to voters of both political parties, and they point to his electoral victories in traditionally blue Minnesota as evidence.

He’ll join a field that includes former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and businessman Herman Cain as the announced candidates.Paul, meanwhile, has scheduled his own Iowa event on Monday. He intends to announce a legislative endorsement and introduce members of his campaign staff during a news conference set for the afternoon at his Ankeny campaign office.

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