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Week Six - And Still No Budget Targets

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The Governor has released his budget, and it does not include funding for the regional non-Medicaid mental health and disability services system.  No money for the $47.28 "equalization formula" and no alternative plan to help maintain these non-Medicaid services.  This makes things tough for legislators, who will have to add to their spending or make cuts to other priorities.  Here is a quick review of how legislators go about making budget decisions:

  1. Legislative leaders in the House (Republicans) and Senate (Democrats) set budget targets. This is how much overall they want to spend for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2013.  When Governor Branstad was elected, he began setting two-year budgets, and we expect that to happen again this year.  So legislative leaders will be setting budget targets for the budget year that begins July 1, 2013 and the budget year that begins July 1, 2014. 

  2. Legislative leaders decide how much of their target will be used by each budget subcommittee - Administration/Regulation, Agriculture/Natural Resources, Economic Growth, Education, Health/Human Services, Justice Systems, and Transportation.  They will also reserve some for automatic appropriations that are required by law (called "Standing Appropriations") and special projects (like education reform, property tax relief, or MH/DS funding). 

  3. Each budget subcommittee decides how to distribute the amount of money they are given. You can see each subcommittee's budget documents and information presented to them by various groups below (just click on the budget area you are interested in, and then click on "committee documents":

  4. The recommendations of the budget subcommittee get drafted into a bill, which is then passed (and often amended) by the full Appropriations Committee.  It then goes through the process like any other bill - except it is funnel-proof (that is, it doesn not have to be out of committee by certain deadlines).

Usually, legislative leaders have set their targets by now.  We hear the Senate Democrats may have their targets ready by early next week.  House Republicans say theirs will be ready soon as well.  Budget subcommittees say they are done meeting until they can start crunching numbers.  Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines says the Senate will start the Health and Human Services Budget this year, and they should begin the process as early as next week.  They are currently getting their bill ready for subcommittee discussion.

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