Why we are where we are
By State Rep. Dave Heaton
The debate over Iowa’s budget continues here under the dome at the capitol. The Senate Democrats announced their budget proposal recently. They are proposing a $7.341 billion state budget for the coming fiscal year, an amount identical to the general fund spending by Governor Terry Branstad.
Their budget proposal would provide an increase in state funding for K-12 schools of 2.625 percent. The proposal would also freeze tuition at the state universities for the second consecutive year, and would fully fund property tax credits and the commercial property tax cut that was previously approved by law makers.
The center of this year’s budget debate is school funding. House Republicans agreed with the Governor’s request and funded schools with a 1.25 percent increase in state aid. Senate Democrats started off at 6 percent, or $294 million, then moved to 4 percent, or $212 million; and now to 2.625 percent, or $155 million. As for House Republicans, they continue to maintain that 1.25 percent or $100 million is fiscally responsible. As previously discussed above, the Democratic proposal would require an additional $55 million in reductions, as if the Republican proposal is not difficult enough.
Meanwhile, school funding has not been determined and local schools are very concerned. They have budgets to develop and are unsure of the resources they will have for the coming year. This all could have been solved back in February, when the House presented a 1.25 percent proposal. The House believes that schools should get the first bite of the apple when it comes to state spending. The problem is the apple, due to falling revenues, is not as big as many had hoped. Other important responsibilities, Medicaid, economic development and public safety still have to receive funding, in addition to education.
So the debate over how much the state should spend next year continues. As the legislative session moves towards its final stages, the answers to too many questions must still be found. And as bad as it may sound in the media, this is how every session has ended during my time as your state representative. As divided as we are at the present time, both sides have to come together and send an agreed-to budget to the Governor for his signature. Differences in political philosophy must be respected, but in a divided Legislature there must be agreement in the end.