Rep. Tom Moore (R-Griswold) and Iowa Sen. Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway) discussed the state budget during the final legislative coffee session hosted by the Creston Chamber of Commerce Saturday morning at the congregate mealsite in the restored Creston Depot.
Moore said this week will largely be spent on passing budgets through appropriations at the statehouse.
“The budget is really tough,” Moore said. “The last REC (revenue estimating conference) just really hammered us and we had to come up with another $131 million out of the 2017 budget. To do that, because most of that money had been disseminated or was promised out there, we couldn’t go in and do another de-appropriation like we did in January.”
Instead, state legislators borrowed from the cash reserves. By doing that, a plan has been put in place to repay the borrowed $131 million to the cash reserve over the next two years.
“That makes the 2018 budget really short and we’ve had to go in and do some very healthy trimming to our budgets,” Moore said. “I’m on the education budget subcommittee. Our budget target was to cut almost $21 million.”
According to Moore, Iowa’s community colleges and K-12 education were held harmless by the budget cuts, while everything else that falls under education took a hit.
But Pat Shipley of Nodaway pointed out $4 million was cut from the K-12 mentoring and induction program, and that salary supplements to community colleges were also cut.
Pat, who has trained mentors through Green Hills AEA, said that if funding to the mentor and induction program is cut, some school districts may not offer the program anymore.
Participation in the mentoring and induction program is required for educators to become licensed in the state of Iowa.
“My concern is it will ultimately have unintended consequences on beginning educators who may not be able to get licensed in Iowa because mentoring and induction may not be offered in their districts,” Pat said. “If you’re trying to bring in new educators in this state, you may be causing damage to them. I find it, unfortunately, very sad that that’s being cut.”
Joe Owens of Creston asked about the $110 million deficit and what expenditures created that deficit.
Moore mentioned how the medicaid budget in 2004 was $750 million, but has grown to $1.8 billion in 2016.
“That doesn’t include the expenditures in the counties for mental health,” Moore said. “The whole medical part of our budget has exploded over the last 12 years. That’s a part of where the money is going.”
Sen. Shipley added finding cuts in the budget has been difficult because of matching dollars from the federal government.
“This last week, there was a proposal to cut the Iowa Flood Center $1.5 million,” Shipley said. “Well, supposedly that’s matched by $94 million from the federal government. So, what looks like it’s going to be just a small cut, when it’s backed by those dollars, gets to be a lot of money.”
Another issue brought up during Saturday’s legislative coffee was the 3/8 cent tax for water quality that was approved by voters, but has not been implemented.
“I personally don’t have a problem with it,” Shipley said. “There are people in the house that will not entertain the notion ... simply because they look at anything like that as a tax increase.”
Moore added: “It’s very simply, the chair of the ways and means is a tax policy guy. That’s what the ways and means does is a lot of tax policy. He, at this point, is not in favor of raising taxes, and he sees that as a tax increase, even though the people have voted for it by about 62 percent. He’s not willing to move that at this point.”