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LEGISLATORS GET GREEN LIGHT FOR BUDGETS

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There is really only one thing legislators must do before they adjourn for the year - pass a state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.  Legislators are required by law to pass a budget that spends only 99% of what the state gets from taxes.  That is where our state's "revenue estimating conference" (or REC for short) comes in - this group of three economists estimates how much the state will have to spend each year. 

The REC met on Wednesday, March 16 and found the state is taking in more money than expected.  That's good news for legislators, who were worried they would have to start making big cuts if the REC predictions were off by too much.  Sen. Bob Dvorsky of Coralville, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the new revenue estimates are a "green light to move forward" and start putting together the budget.  Leaders in both House and Senate seemed optimistic that they would come to agreement on final budget numbers soon.

The Governor introduced his budget for Health and Human Services this week - Senate Study Bill 3175.  There are a lot of significant changes in this bill, particularly around Medicaid to allow for managed care, and most provider rates are no longer guaranteed in the bill. The bill contains no plan for oversight of the managed care system, and makes some significant changes that appear to pass on costs previously paid for by the state to MH/DS regions (without funding).  We will provide more information on this as we get details, so stay tuned.

While the Governor always introduces his budget in the form of a bill, legislators almost always start their budgets from scratch.  So while SSB 3175 is the Governor's budget, it probably won't see any debate this  year.  In addition, the House starts the Health and Human Services Budget this year, so they will put together their own bill very soon, and it could (and probably will) include some of what the Governor is recommending.

All this means if you are concerned about funding - for Medicaid, MH/DS regions, child care, education, water quality - now is the time to start making some noise and getting your legislators' attention!  Call, write, email, or attend a local forum - all are effective ways to advocate.  The most important tip we can give you is- to steal from Nike, "Just do it."