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Iowa Is 'Bruised' But Budget Situation Is Still Relatively Strong

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John Pemble
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IPR

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This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Iowa is estimated to lose a few hundred million dollars in tax revenue, but the state is in a stronger financial position than many others. Lawmakers haven't made widespread budget cuts and are leaving most state spending at the same level as last year.

Iowa ended recent fiscal years with a significant budget surplus, cushioning the blow state coffers have taken the past few months. Declines have primarily been the result of lost income taxes coming into the state since so many people have lost jobs.

"While bruised and somewhat battered, our fundamentals are still strong in this state," says Dave Roederer, the state budget director. Roederer says the biggest question on his mind is "When and how fast will we reenergize and rebound from a pandemic, which is likely to be with us for a while?"

The biggest budget cut was an $8 million cut to Iowa's public universities. The Legislature also made cuts to its own budget, the court system and the secretary of state's office, while increasing funding for Medicaid and K-12 schools.

Lawmakers didn't take any steps to fund Iowa's new children's mental health system or to provide more sustainable support for adult mental health programs, despite pledging to do that before the coronavirus pandemic hit the state.

Katarina Sostaric is the state government reporter for Iowa Public Radio.

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