Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa House had another quarrel about state education funding on this afternoon.

The House debated a bill that outlines state spending for preschool programs, community colleges, the state universities for the academic year that starts in the fall. House Republicans voted for an overall spending plan that’s nearly $44 million less than the current year’s. Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, said that meets the demands of voters.

“Taxpayers sent us a pretty good message in the last election that they wanted us to keep a handle on spending,” Dolecheck said at the end of today’s debate. 

The House Republicans have voted to get rid of state-funded preschool for all four-year-olds and, instead, set up a voucher program for low-income parents who want to send their kids to preschool. Democrats like Representative Nate Willems of Lisbon objected to the G.O.P. plan.

“My belief is that Iowa’s economy is on an upswing and that these drastic cuts are unnecessary,” Willems said. 

The Republican-backed bill would cut the general budgets for the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa by more than seven percent and state support of community colleges would be cut by six percent.  Dolecheck says there’s were choices that had to be made when Governor Branstad proposed the new voucher program for preschoolers rather than elimination of all state support of preschool.

“You realize, people, that the reason why we’re having to cut community colleges and Regents universities (is) because we decided to fund another year…of pre-K,” Dolecheck said.

The House Republicans voted to provide about half a million more for state-funded tuition grants for college-bound students next year. State support of Iowa Public Television would decrease by $428,000 under the House G.O.P. plan.

This budget bill now goes to the Democratically-led Iowa Senate for consideration.