Under the Golden Dome, Too

Busy week at the statehouse

Another productive week in the House is under our belts.  We continue to work hard on behalf of Iowans as we wind down the list of policy bills on our debate calendar and make additional progress on the budget bills.

Tuesday, April 22 marks the 100th calendar day of the session.  Our goal was to have our work complete by this date, but it appears that is unlikely.  It’s unfortunate that political grandstanding in the Senate has become detrimental to getting our job done this session.  There is no doubt that when a concern is raised involving state government, we have the responsibility to look into the issue.  The Government Oversight Committee is a function of the legislative branch that provides a forum to investigate concerns as they arise.  However, this committee is not limited to meeting solely during the legislative session and should not prohibit us from wrapping up our work on behalf of the taxpayers of Iowa.  I am hopeful we will be able to move forward in the next couple of weeks and complete our work for the year.

SF 2347, the Education Appropriations bill, was one of the budget bills passed in the House this week. 

This year’s education budget includes funding to further our commitment to the comprehensive, achievement-driven education reform package passed last year.  With an additional $50 million for the teacher leadership initiative established in 2013, this bill helps ensure our students will be equipped with the tools they need to compete in today’s global economy and our teachers will be rewarded for their hard work in making this happen.

SF 2347 also includes additional funding for our higher education institutions in Iowa- $19.2 million for our three Regent universities and $8 million for Iowa’s community colleges.  This funding ensures a tuition freeze for in-state students at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa for the second consecutive year. 

While this budget does not address supplemental state aid (previously referred to as allowable growth) for K-12 schools, some discussion was brought up on this issue in relation to some schools making budget adjustments for the upcoming school year.  It is important to note that through a unanimous, bipartisan vote last year, the Legislature has already increased K-12 funding by 4% for the 2014-2015 school year. Schools will be receiving an estimated $170 million additional state dollars next year over the previous year.

Despite this, due to declining enrollment and budget reductions in some school districts, school dollars are hard to stretch and it’s easy to blame the Legislature.  The truth is, for the past two years, this year, and next year, we will have increased school funding through the supplemental state aid formula by over $440 million.  During the 2014-2015 school year, Iowa will spend approximately $10,000 per K-12 student. 

Since coming into the Majority in 2010, we have committed to funding our K-12 schools through a more responsible approach than the method used up to that point.  We will set the supplemental state aid amount at the same time we set the state’s two-year budget- after having a good understanding of our state’s revenue projections and other obligations.  Committing taxpayer dollars without knowing how much revenue is available, is irresponsible and puts Iowans at risk for a property tax increase.  Setting supplemental state aid at the same time as the two-year budget has proven to be successful as education funding has increased during this time, there have no across-the-board cuts, and we have honored our commitments.

Rest assured, Iowans can be confident we are committed to ensuring our students have the resources they need to excel in the classroom and thrive upon graduation. 

Thank you for your feedback over the past few weeks.  I’ve appreciated hearing from you and hope you will continue to contact me with your thoughts and questions as we move toward adjournment.  Feel free to reach me anytime at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618.