Governor Chet Culver is defending the budget plan he submitted to lawmakers this week, specifically the funding level he proposed for community colleges. Republican lawmakers, led by a state representative who teaches at a community college, charge Culver’s proposal for community colleges may lead to significant cuts and even hefty tuition increases at the 15 area schools.
"If you look at the facts, we have increased community college funding two percent," Culver told reporters during a telephone conference call this morning. "…Community colleges are one of the very few groups getting an increase in funding and the record is very clear. The facts are very clear." Culver, a Democrat, is using the occasion to accuse Republicans of getting "emotional" about this issue.
"What I’ve suggested is that we tone down the partisan rhetoric, we look at the facts, we ask fair questions of each other and then we try to build consensus," Culver said. Last year, lawmakers allotted $14 million more for community colleges. Culver proposes an increase for the coming year of five-and-a-half million and Republican lawmakers charge that’s not a big enough increase.
Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, teaches history at Muscatine Community College and he vowed to bring a "tsunami" of community college students to the capitol to protest Culver’s proposal. Culver told reporters this morning that it is his job to balance the state budget.
"I do find it interesting, however, that some members of the other party are now wanting me to spend more money on initiatives, whether it’s education or other areas, at a time when we’ve also been criticized for spending too much," Culver said. According to Culver, he has proposed a "pretty lean" state budget.