Under the Golden Dome, Too – March 27

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In preparation for next week’s second legislative funnel week, we passed many bills to the Senate this week that make our state stronger and an even greater place to raise a family. In order for these priorities to remain eligible for consideration this year, they must pass out of a Senate policy committee next week.

Included in these bills is legislation to protect the rights of military families at the funerals of our fallen service men and women to have the respectful and honorable ceremony they deserve. Another bill increases confidentiality measures for victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and human trafficking. Appropriations, Ways & Means, and Government Oversight bills are exempt from the funnel rules.

This is also the time of year when we begin to transition our focus from policy discussions to budget discussions. As I mentioned last week, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met on March 19 for its required meeting during the legislative session. At the meeting, the three-member committee announced a reduction of new dollars that will be available for Fiscal Year 2016, the budget year we are currently planning.

For FY 2016, the REC lowered the General Fund revenue projections to $7.1755 billion. What this means is instead of a $200 million increase we believed the state would have to provide for funding education, Medicaid, and all of the other priorities of Iowans, we will actually have $180 million in new dollars.

When I visit with individuals across the state, there is no doubt that education funding is a priority for Iowans, and I certainly agree. Because education is such a high priority for all of us, the first bill passed out of the House this year was to increase funding to our K-12 schools by 1.25%. Combined with Teacher Leadership compensation, we have committed nearly $100 million, or 55 cents of every new dollar, to K-12 education. We are funding education at the highest level we can afford. This also means we will have to find efficiencies and cuts in other areas of government to fund this priority.

Rest assured, we will not compromise on our core budgeting principles that we have stuck to over the past four years. We will not spend more than we take in, we will not use one-time sources of revenue for ongoing expenses, and we will not intentionally underfund promises made to Iowans. Funding education and crafting a responsible budget is vital for our state. We need to do both and I’m confident we can accomplish this.

I have also received feedback on the school start date issue. We thought this had been resolved when a compromise was found that schools would start no sooner than August 23, especially since a majority in both the House and Senate have now voted in favor of this proposal. Oddly, the Senate Majority Leader placed a motion to reconsider on the bill which keeps this issue in limbo and prevents schools from planning. I am hopeful the issues surrounding education funding and the school start date will soon be resolved.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618 with your comments, feedback, and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you!

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