A plan to cut the current year’s state budget by about $88 million has emerged in the Iowa Senate.
Earlier this month Republican Governor Terry Branstad proposed cutting even deeper — about $22 million deeper, but Republicans in the legislature have decided not to align state tax policy with a series of federal tax breaks.
Republican Senator Charles Schneider of West Des Moines says with that tax decision and a few other adjustments, this new plan has the backing of Republicans in the House and Senate, as well as the governor.
“It was not a fun puzzle to have to put together, but ultimately you’ve got to make it work,” Schneider says, “and that’s what we’re here for.”
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says the plan raises concerns because of cuts to community colleges and the three state universities.
“We think that this is going to have a super-detrimental affect on those students,” Bolkcom says. “And while we might not look at a tuitition increase this spring, I suspect that we’re going to see one soon.”
The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa would be forced to absorb $18 million in budget cuts under the GOP plan, although that’s less than the $25 million dollar reduction Branstad sought from the Regents universities. Community college funding would be shaved by $3 million rather than $8.7 million Branstad recommended.
Schneider says Republicans were forced to make “tough decisions” because while state tax revenue is growing, it’s not growing as much as expected.
“We can’t spend more than we have. That’s just a reality,” Schneider says. “That’s not politics. That’s math.”
The budget-cutting plan has cleared a senate subcommittee and will considered in the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday. The governor’s plan would have cut more deeply in the prison system’s budget as well as the budgets for state troopers and the courts. Republicans say the Department of Management is offering to cut $11.5 million throughout all of state government by curbing travel and putting off office supply purchases. Managers will also hold leave some job openings vacant. Some agencies may be forced to lay off workers, however, to deal with some of the targeted cuts.