Pat Grassley

Republicans in the Iowa legislature advanced key parts of their state budget plan on Monday.

“As we put this budget together, we’ve had to prioritize our priorities within state government,” Republican Representative Pat Grassley of New Hartford,  chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said to open a public hearing on the budget.

Last night, Senate Republicans voted on the spending plan for Iowa’s courts and prisons. Republicans in the House, meanwhile, approved a bill outlining next year’s spending plan for higher education as well as state agencies that do things like oversee voting, collect taxes and investigate elder abuse. Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, noted cuts to state programs for foster children as well as deaf and blind Iowans.

“The state’s budget is being balanced on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable,” Hall said.

Democrats complained the budget for the Iowa Public Information Board has been cut so dramatically the agency may close next month. Republicans say the duties of responding to public questions about government meetings and public records may be transferred to another agency that oversees campaign finance laws.

Also last night, Republican Senators voted to shut down the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.