January 25, 2015

Legislators, governor fight over budget for University of Iowa

Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to try to change the terms of a deal that would freeze in-state tuition for students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa this fall. Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington, is asking Republican Governor Terry Branstad to intervene.

“The House Republican vote is an attempt to pit our universities against each other and pit Iowans against each other,” Schoenjahn said this morning. “Governor Branstad, a tuition freeze is one of your top legislative priorities and it’s in serious trouble.”

The board that governs the three state universities has offered to freeze tuition for the second year in a row if legislators provide a four percent budget boost for each of the schools, as well as an additional$4.4 million for the University of Northern Iowa. Governor Terry Branstad has signed onto that deal and Senate Democrats have as well, but House Republicans late last night voted to scoop into the University of Iowa’s allotment to provide the extra money to UNI, putting Iowa’s budget boost at two percent rather than the four percent going to the other two institutions.

Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, said the U-of-I is sitting on a “tremendous” cash reserve.

“Ready cash that they can use as compared to the other two institutions,” Dolecheck said.

Representative Chip Baltimore, a Republican from Boone, scoffed at the idea the University of Iowa would be damaged with the House GOP’s plan.

“Their entire budget for the fiscal year is $3.1 billion and we’re trimming ($4.4 million) from the increase they say is necessary to freeze tuition in this state — 0.15 percent,” Baltimore said.

House Republicans also rejected an attempt to include an anti-bullying proposal in the budget bill that passed the House Tuesday night at about 10:15 p.m. on a party-line vote. Governor Branstad, for the second year in a row, has asked legislators to pass anti-bullying legislation, but House Republicans have yet to bring a bill up for a vote in the full House.