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Governor's Budget Tops $7 Billion

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During the opening week of Iowa's 2014 legislative session, Governor Terry Branstad rolled out his budget requests for fiscal year 2015, which starts on July 1, 2014. The Governor is recommending three new initiaties intended to stop bullying, make sure all Iowans have high-speed Internet, and get veterans good jobs.  Here are some highights:

  • The Governor is asking for $7.9 billion, an increase of $508.7 million (7.8%) compared to the current year.  That's more than the state will take in this year, but the Governor is able to do that because the state currently has $928 million in reserves (that is, in a state savings account).  Some of the Governor's spending comes from those reserves.

  • Over $330 million of the increase in spending goes to implement two bills passed last year - the Commercial Property Tax Relief bill and the Education Reform package.

  • Of the $7 Billion budget, $3.88 Billion (or 55%) would go to Education. 

  • The tuition freeze at the state's three universities (Iowa State, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa) will remain in place - so tuitions will not go up for Iowa residents.

  • The Governor's FY 2015 recommendation leaves an estimated $723.2 million surplus in reserves.

  • The Governor announced an new Connect Every Iowan Initiative to make sure all Iowans have access to high-speed Internet - and his budget includes tax incentives to encourage broadband expansion.

  • The Governor also announced a new intiative (Home Base Iowa) to recruit veterans to Iowa with good jobs. 

  • The Governor announced he will again introduce antibullying legislation so schools can take action on bullying that takes place off school grounds and on social media.

  • The Governor is not recommending a supplemental appropriations bill for the current fiscal year.  Instead, he will fund Medicaid's shortfalls from other sources of funding (one-time funds). 

  • Continued funding for the regional Mental Health & Disability Services System ($29.8 million for property tax equalization).  However, the Governor did not recommend eliminating or delaying the "clawback" - which says that counties that save money on services because of the Affordable Care Act have give back 80% of those savings to the state or to their taxpayers.  So while the money is appropriated this year, counties may be forced to pay it back if the people they serve now have some type of insurance coverage (rather than reinvesting that savings to meet core services, make progress on core plus services, filling gaps in services, increasing provider reimbursements, addressing waiting lists, or serving other "non-targted" populations like people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries). 

  • Incrased funding for Vocational Rehabilitation ($150,000), which is matched with federal dollars. There is still over $1 million that is needed to draw down all federal funds available for Iowa.

  • Reinstates funding for the Office of Substitute Decision Maker ($325,000) to help Iowans who need help making decisions about their health care, personal care and finances.   This Office is in the Department on Aging, but has not been funded for many years.  This appropriation would begin to re-establish the office.

Budget subcommittees have begun to meet, and this year plan to have "joint targets." That means, the Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the Senate will agree on how much money each budget subcommittee gets to spend.  That budget subcommittee will then take that "target" and figure out how much each thing in their budget will get.  The following people serve on the Health & Human Services Budget Subcommittee - you can find out how to contact there here.