A week ago today Republican Governor Terry Branstad issued a very public plea, asking his fellow Republican legislators to provide more money to the three state universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City.
“I’m very hopeful that at the end of the day the legislature will see the wisdom of the recommendations that we’ve made,” Branstad said during his weekly news conference last Monday.
At the end of last week, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen — the top Republican in the legislature — hadn’t been convinced Branstad’s request to send $20 million more state tax dollars to Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I next year had merit.
“You know, we work for the taxpayers and we think it’s right that they justify those dollars to us. If there’s some more dollars that need to be spent there, you know, justify it and we’re happy to take a look at it,” Paulsen said. “Our feet aren’t set in stone, but you don’t just get to show up and ask for a check and we send it.”
House Republicans have a budget plan that would reduce the budgets at the state-supported universities by $30 million. Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, suggests there’ll be “huge” increases in tuition for students if lawmakers take the House GOP’s approach.
“You know, if you starve these budgets long enough, you’re going to have situations like what’s going on at UNI, where you just can’t oeprate anymore,” Kibbie says.
UNI president Ben Allen recently has unveiled a series of significant budget cuts for the Cedar Falls school, including the end for 58 academic programs and the closure of the Price Lab School which has offered an on-campus student-teaching experience in K-12 classrooms. House Speaker Paulsen praises those decision.
“I think UNI is articulating some very powerful arguments,” Paulsen said last Thursday. “…I think some of the steps that President Allen is making indicate a very sincere effort to make sure the money we’re sending there is used wisely.”
An analysis released last week found state taxpayer support of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI has declined 40 percent in the past 12 years.