DES MOINES - Twenty-five weeks after gaveling in on a snowy January morning, Iowa legislative leaders expect to wrap up their work under sunny June skies.

If not, Fourth of July festivities might not hold a Roman candle to the political fireworks likely to erupt inside the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, and others predict a constitutional crisis if Republican Gov. Terry Branstad tries to use emergency authority to keep state government running without money having been appropriated by the legislature.

Others, however, see a path to adjournment before the week is over.

"I think legislators have finally come to the realization that it's time to get out there and get the job done and work together," Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said Friday after he helped reach an agreement on Branstad's proposal to replace the current Department of Economic Development with a public-private partnership.

Across the aisle, Sen. Merlin Bartz, R-Grafton, agreed there is reason for optimism.

"For the first time this legislative session, majority Democrats have allowed those of us in the minority the courtesy of coming to the table regarding decisions that fund the necessities of state government," he said after House-Senate conference committees reached agreement on budgets for ag and natural resources, justice systems and economic development, and a mental health policy bill late last week.

"This is how the legislative process is supposed to work," added Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. "The Senate has gotten the ball rolling. The handful of days remaining in the month of June is more than enough to finish the state budget and adjourn."

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, agreed lawmakers are in the homestretch. However, there are hurdles to be crossed. Lawmakers haven't reached agreement on a handful of issues. Some, such as property tax reform, are shared priorities, so it's a matter of reaching a compromise between Republicans who control the House, Democrats who control the Senate and Branstad.

The parties seem miles apart on the property tax issue.

House Republicans and the governor would cut taxes - and local government taxing authority - across the board and reimburse local government for lost revenue.

Senate Democrats call that a tax shift. They're pushing a plan they say would offer a tax credit approach to cut taxes for most commercial property owners without shifting the burden to residential property taxpayers or hurting local schools and services.

"We're still talking," Paulsen said. After more than 20 years of property tax studies, finding a plan that all parties can live with "is a high bar, but it's very important."

"We have to continue to fight for that," Paulsen said. "Property taxes are clearly too high and stifling economic growth, so we have to push."

In other areas, lawmakers have reached agreement or are "within minutes" of agreements, Paulsen said. A couple of issues could be sent to conference committees early this week to iron out differences, he added.

Sticking points are Democrats' insistence on 3 percent allowable growth in fiscal 2013 after agreeing to 2 percent earlier. They have retreated from a demand for 2 percent allowable growth in fiscal 2012.

Also, there's not agreement on universal, free preschool for 4-year-olds. There's agreement on the policy, but not funding, he said. Branstad wanted all parents sending children to the state preschool program to pay at least a nominal tuition. Low- and moderate-income parents would get vouchers to help pay the tuition.

The House and Senate are scheduled to gavel in at 10 a.m. today. For more information, visit legis.iowa.gov.

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