Gov. Terry Branstad exudes confidence. Whether he's explaining how his policy prescriptions will transform Iowa's economy and grow jobs or insisting that the state's lawmakers will be able to come to agreement on the budget before it goes into effect July 1, Branstad seems quite certain things will work out. And it will all be done according to his vision of fiscal responsibility --- which he says has been lacking almost the entire time since he left office in 1999 after four terms as governor. After all, there's a new sheriff in town and he's not going to let lawmakers get away with this sloppy budgeting or excess spending any more. The budget deal seems elusive, though. With Democrats holding a slim majority in the Iowa Senate and Republicans solidly in control of the House, principles are at stake! Uncompromising Democrats have started a "countdown to shutdown," claiming the government is in danger of shutting down if Branstad and Republicans don't bend a little bit more their way. They are also arguing that Republicans have invented the budget crisis, saying the state's coffers will be overflowing with cash in the new fiscal year. As a result, more than a month after the rank-and-file have gone home, lawmakers like Democratic Senate Marjority Leader Mike Gronstal and Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen are still in the midst of negotiations. Much of the debate centers on the overall size of the state's budget, whether it will be a one- or two-year budget, property tax reform proposals, the amount of spending for K-12 education and the approach to providing state-funded preschool. Branstad and legislative leaders will say they're making progress and then we hear talks have broken down. Each side seems to regularly blast those on the other side of the political aisle. The full House is actually back in session today after putting together a bill including some key compromises with Democrats. Democrats, of course, have voiced skepticism that it can pass in the Senate. The new sheriff says there's plenty of time to negotiate a budget deal, that they've got this thing locked up tight. But where's that budget deal? And who exactly is locked up in the jail? Budget talks look promising and then they break down. The new sheriff talks tough, but he's been foiled more than once by those sneaky budget talks. I think I'll keep my eye on that shutdown clock.