Iowa legislative budget work in progress

DES MOINES – A sure harbinger of the adjournment of the 2021 legislative session came on Monday when the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced the first state budget bill – although the end is still weeks away.

Committee members approved Senate Study Bill 1256 – a generally uncontroversial bill intended to finance the operations of the State Department of Transportation from the road use tax fund and the primary road fund for fiscal year 2022.

The Senate measure was passed without dissent. But it is perhaps one of the few bipartisan deals that take place as lawmakers tackle budget and tax policy issues with the unofficial adjournment target set for April 30 – the 110th day in session, when daily expenses run out for part-time Iowa members. General assembly.

Monday’s action came after the House and Senate met for less than 10 minutes before ending the day’s work as talks between majority Republicans take place behind closed doors on the list in declining priorities – although the heaviest legislative lifts – awaiting action.

Senate Republicans previously announced a 2022 budget target of $ 7.999 billion for state spending. But they acknowledged that the amount will likely increase as they negotiate funding for broadband expansion and other priorities with Gov. Kim Reynolds and the majority Republicans in the House, who have yet to release their statements. expenditure forecasts for the next fiscal year. The Senate number represented an increase of $ 195 million over current funding with increases of $ 80 million for education, $ 98 million for health care and $ 60 million for mental health services .

Governor Kim Reynolds’ Budget Plan

The governor’s budget plan set a target of $ 8.1 billion for state spending – a 3.7% increase that would fund priorities in expanding broadband, education programs primary and secondary and mental health for adults and children. Reynolds is seeking to increase the state’s general fund appropriations by $ 331.4 million. This included the first of three annual payments of $ 150 million for broadband, a 2.5% increase in state aid to K-12 schools and community colleges, an increase of $ 15 million. to regent universities, $ 38.7 million for Medicaid and human services needs and $ 15 million for health.

Senate Republicans propose tax break

Senate Republicans are also proposing significant tax relief by eliminating 2018 income tax “ triggers ” with a reduction in state revenue of about $ 110 million in the first year, phasing out state inheritance tax and reorganizing the mental health tax with a state takeover. local costs which funders say will reduce property taxes by $ 100 million.

House Republicans have indicated they plan to commit around $ 100 million to broadband expansion. But they have not weighed in on various tax cut proposals other than approving a bill pending Senate action to remove state taxes on federal PPP grants and loans for individuals. companies and unemployment insurance benefits for Iowa workers affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minority Democrats weigh

Minority Democrats who occupy high-ranking positions on the House and Senate appropriation committees told progressive groups during a call to Zoom on Monday that the state’s budget position was fairly strong with a good revenue growth and an infusion of $ 4.5 billion in federal relief funds to Iowa for state and local needs. up from $ 1.25 billion in the last fiscal year. However, they did not anticipate that the favorable numbers would translate into more money for state budget areas that have operated on status quo budgets since 2011 beyond increases for K-12 schools and needs. Medicaid with GOP conservatives focused on cutting taxes and cutting government.

“On the credit side, I’m sort of anticipating a year at the bare minimum when most government services will receive a modest increase, if any. The real debate between the House and the Senate will be over these tax expenditures, ”said Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who highlighted the deaths of two members of the House staff. Anamosa Penitentiary as evidence that when basic services are not funded, “it cascades and we start to see results.”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he hoped the proposed $ 4 million increase in justice system funding in Senate GOP goals was an indication that more funding will be put into correctional housing. inmates at levels beyond the design capabilities of the state prison. But he questioned whether this level would finance staffing needs beyond just covering wage increases for current workers.

“We have the money. It’s not like we’re broke. Is it going to be a priority for them? And it’s sad to have this kind of tragedy to basically have a legitimate conversation to even do it, ”he said.

Overall, Bolkcom said: ‘I think we’re going to be unhappy with the level of funding for things like community colleges, child care, mental health, our public universities, our prisons, our courts – you name it, we’re going to under-invest in it with the budget that has been proposed at this point.

Transport budget bill

During committee business on Monday, Sen. Craig Johnson, R-Independence, said the FY2022 transportation budget bill introduced by Senate Republicans was a $ 398 million package representing a net decrease in funding of $ 2.9 million, but an increase of seven full-time employees. for the State Department of Transportation of the road use tax fund and the primary road fund. More money was included for major maintenance needs, replacing medium and heavy trucks for the highway division, and restocking road salt supplies, he said.

Comments: (515) 243-7220;

The State Capitol is lit up by the sunset in Des Moines on February 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

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