“We’re trying to make these adjustments in a fiscally responsible way,” Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, said. “First, we’re prioritizing where we’re making these adjustments.”
The bill still calls for carving millions out of the budgets for the state’s prisons, courts and community colleges. It cuts funding for the three state universities by about $14.5 million.
“This is what thousands of Iowa families had to do during The Great Recession when a lot of them faced salary reductions or a loss of income, they had to take a look at their own spending and make adjustments,” Schneider said. “That’s the approach that we believe is the right approach and what we’re proposing today.”
Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, would have preferred deeper cuts to state universities. He accused the board that governs the schools of being “addicted” to erecting new campus buildings that rival the “Taj Mahal.”
“See, the Board of Regents doesn’t understand the concept of tightening belts,” Zaun said during this afternoon’s debate.
Democrats in the Senate called the GOP’s bill “reckless” and “misguided.” Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said Iowans are suffering through “GOP budget whiplash.”
“We don’t have a spending problem. We have a priorities and a management problem,” Bolkcom said. “…Iowa Republicans, unfortunately, are falling far short.”
Senator Rich Taylor, a Democrat from Mount Pleasant, is a retired correctional officer. He said the $3.5 million cut to the state’s prison system will make an already dangerous situation worse.
“The only thing they have left to cut is staff,” Taylor said. “There is no more room for cutting the Department of Corrections.”
This debate about cutting the current year’s state budget likely will continue next week. The House must debate its own plan to reduce state spending to ensure the budget stays in the black.