Majority Republicans in the Iowa Senate Thursday unveiled proposed budget cuts for the fiscal year that ends in June, trimming higher education and the courts more than Gov. Reynolds recommended.
The proposal has led a Regents university spokesman and a state court administrator to warn of significant consequences if the cuts become law.
The Senate plan would require state agencies to trim $52 million in the roughly five months left in the year, nearly twice what the governor recommended. Senate Appropriations Chairman Charles Schneider says the revenues that this year’s budget was based on did not materialize.
He says Iowa law requires a balanced budget.
“And this requires us to make some adjustments to our budget in terms of the money we've budgeted to spend for the current fiscal year,” Schneider said in a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Our goal has been to do so in a way that is fiscally responsible and to reflect priorities that we as Iowans all hold most dear.”
Iowa’s Regents universities will take a $19.2 million cut, after $30 million in reductions last year. Gov. Reynolds recommended a $5.1 million reduction.
Iowa City Democrat Joe Bolkcom said the GOP budget is in crisis and it’s hurting Iowans.
“I don't think there's any doubt with 19.2 million dollars in proposed cuts to the public universities, another 5.4 million in cuts to our fine community colleges, that tuition for every college kid and family is going to go up next year,” Bolkcom said.
Regents Executive Director Mark Braun expressed hope that lawmakers and the governor will work with the universities to significantly lessen the proposed reductions.
“As the second semester is already underway, these severe cuts for FY2018 would cause disruptions on our campuses,” Regents Executive Director Mark Braun wrote in a statement. “We will work to minimize the impact on students.”
For the judicial branch, Senate Republicans are recommending a $4.8 million cut.
“Should the $4.8 million cut come to reality, we are left with no other choice than to close courthouses and eliminate personnel branch-wide,” State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio wrote in a letter to court personnel. “As such, we are projecting the closure of over 30 county courthouses proportionately distributed across our eight judicial districts.”
Nuccio said the judicial branch receives 2.5 percent of all general fund revenues, but is being asked to absorb more than 9 percent of the reduction for all of state government. He told court employees that circumstances will likely change before lawmakers approve a final budget.
House Republicans are also working on a plan to cut this year’s budget.
“We’ve made cuts to the budget over the years when we’ve needed to, so things that we might have considered not as difficult to eliminate have been eliminated,” Upmeyer said. “Now we’re working really hard to make sure that we’re finding savings where we need to that will affect as few people as possible.”
Senate Republicans say they are proposing deeper cuts than the governor in order to be prepared if revenues projections fall short again in March. Upmeyer said House Republicans will also likely proposed deeper cuts than the governor recommended.