House Republicans and Senate Democrats released their budget targets this week. Senate Democrats’ targets are similar to Governor Branstad’s budget proposals. Overall state spending is set at 97% of available revenue. Senate Democrats propose to spend less in some areas and $52,000,000 more than the Governor for education.
Before I get to the House Republicans’ budget numbers, it is important to remember the priorities both parties expressed at the beginning of the legislation session: jobs, jobs, educational opportunity and jobs. We all agree public investment is not a silver bullet in solving Iowa’s challenges, but budget proposals are an indication of priorities. Overall, the House majority’s budget does not reflect my priorities or the priorities of most Iowans in the district I represent.
Overall, House Republicans propose spending 92% of available fiscal year 2013 revenue with no indication as to what would be done with the rest. No tax cut proposal or future-year spending proposal accompanied the budget targets. The 8% would be added to the nearly $1 billion cash the state is projected to hold at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. The state earns .2% interest on its cash.
Budget targets do not indicate spending on particular line items, but some details have already emerged. House Republicans choose not to fund the High Quality Jobs Program, the Governor’s proposed replacement for the Iowa Values economic development program. They also choose to spend $81,000,000 less than the Governor on education. Not exactly a strong commitment to improving schools in the state. Here are the details, relative to the Governor (“-“ meaning less than the Governor’s proposal), of the House Republican budget proposal:
Administration and Regulation: -$8.8 million
Ag & Natural Resources: $1.2 million
Economic Development: -$32.1 million
Education: -$81 million
Health & Human Services: -$41.2 million
Courts: -$10 million
Correctional Facilities: -$16 million
Funding for reform to the mental health/developmental disability service delivery system that would increase state spending would fall under the Health & Human Services budget. I look forward to working with the Senate and Governor on putting together a reasonable, rational fiscal year 2013 budget. I am working on a bigger-picture video explanation of the state balance sheet I hope to post on Tuesday. Make sure to check my Facebook page or Twitter feed for the latest information from the Capitol.
On to the update…
In This Issue
1. Legislation to Assist County Mental Health Funding Clears Senate
2. State Clarifies Commitment to USS Iowa Museum
3. Heating Assistance Still Available
4. Capitol Visits
Legislation to Assist County Mental Health Funding Clears Senate
Last year the Legislature set aside $10 million to help counties provide mental health services and avoid placing citizens on waiting lists to receive services. $5 million remains in the mental health risk pool and its board is seeking authority from the General Assembly to allocate the remaining funds.
Before the session began I met with Linn County officials about the shortfall in the mental health/developmental disability services budget. Since then I have been working on a legislative solution. Currently, there are bills in both chambers establishing a process for the mental health risk pool board to allow additional allocations from the risk pool fund.
This week the Senate approved a bill allowing counties to access the risk pool using a three-tiered criteria system. The risk pool board is allowed to accept or reject an application in whole or prorate distribution of funding if application requests exceed the available amount. The bill requires the risk pool funds be distributed within 15 working days of the funding decision.
Word is Governor Branstad opposes another round of funding to counties for mental health and related services because his proposed FY 2013 budget scoops the remaining risk pool money to use for a different purpose. The Senate bill also includes a public safety supplemental appropriation, making the mental health language subject to a line-item veto.
State Clarifies Commitment to USS Iowa Museum
The USS Iowa, once the most powerful and largest battleship in the U.S. Navy, is being transformed into a museum. Last year the Iowa Legislature approved $3 million to help with the restoration. This year, to ensure accountability, the Iowa Legislature approved a bill specifying how the money can be spent and requiring updates on the restoration process.
The USS Iowa was active for over 50 years and saw action in World War II, the Korean War, and throughout the Cold War. The ship was decommissioned in 1990 and ownership was transferred from the U.S. Navy to Pacific Battleship Center. The USS Iowa museum, located in Los Angeles, is expected to open in July. Admission will be free for anyone with an Iowa i.d.
Heating Assistance Still Available
Even though the temperatures this winter haven’t been as low as previous winters, heating assistance is still available through the low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP). Iowans with income under 150% of the federal poverty level are eligible for the assistance. You can find detailed information about LIHEAP here or by calling the Iowa Utilities Board at 1-877-565-4450. Both the internet and IUB will connect you to the local community action program administering the program in your area.
The LIHEAP program provides partial assistance in paying utility bills. Iowa law also prohibits disconnection of gas or electric service to a LIHEAP-registered household between November 1, 2011, and April 1, 2012.
Busy week at the Capitol with lots of folks from home. Last Thursday Jon Weih and Doug Bannon accompanied a number of students from Kirkwood Community College to Des Moines. Sam Claassen visited last week, along with Hunter Parks, Chuck Skaugstad and Matt Adam.
Monday was the Iowa Business Council annual meeting. Outgoing IBC Chairman Tom Aller, Ron Olson, Cindy Dietz, Clay Jones, Brad Hart, Jenny Becker, Ron Corbett, Jeff Pomeranz, Stacey Cyphert, Chuck Peters, Dee Baird and Tom Hobson all attended the event. Marilee Fowler, Jennifer Pickar and Mary Lee Malmberg from the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau were in Des Moines Tuesday.
Wednesday saw visits from Dr. Craig Clark, Dr. Tork Harmon, Dr. Rimas Nemickas and Dr. James Justice. Iowa Department of Transportation Commissioner Amy Reasner was at the Capitol the same day along with Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, Angie Charipar and Metro Economic Alliance Executive Vice President Doug Neumann. Dr. Trace Pickering made a great presentation to the House Education committee about the changing conditions that drive the need for transformational education reform.
Roger Johanson and Chrissy Wolfe from Coe College and Hanna O’Toole and Jennie Schmidt from Mt. Mercy University were also in Des Moines to talk about educational improvement.
Have a great week!