From Speaker Linda Upmeyer’s newsletter:
With May nearly in sight, we are finally getting spring-like weather. You can always tell that the end of session is near when the farmer-legislators start talking about soil temperatures. Farmers will soon be planting in the fields and schools will be out for the year. Hopefully the beautiful weather continues!
This week the House and Senate announced an agreement on the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In total, the FY20 state budget will spend $7.643 billion, which is just 0.2% more than the current budget. This budget plan spends just 97.39% of ongoing revenue, which is well below the 99% limit that law requires. Additionally, it fills all of our reserve funds and leaves a strong ending balance of almost $300 million. This is a conservative budget plan that funds key programs in a responsible way and is sustainable in the long-term.
When the pieces of the budget plan are put together, it will reflect many of the programs that Iowans have identified as priorities: Education, health care, public safety, and rural Iowa.
Education is always something we prioritize in the budget and this year is no different. Ensuring that higher education is accessible and affordable for Iowa students is critical to the future success of our state. Community colleges are something that we value greatly and will continue to invest in. They often serve as economic drivers in our communities, working closely with K-12 schools and local businesses to train our future workforce.
Additionally, keeping tuition affordable at our Regent universities for Iowa families was a major consideration this session. This budget will allow us to provide Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI with additional funding to keep tuition rates competitive in the Midwest and with their peers.
Workforce is another major priority in the budget. If you recall, last session we passed the Future Ready Iowa Act with the intent of helping Iowans gain the skills necessary for a 21st century economy. Part of that plan included what are known as Last Dollar Scholarships to help Iowans afford the education or training that they need to attain a successful career.
We are also investing in Iowa’s health care workforce by funding medical residencies to ensure we have providers across our state. These will ensure greater access to high quality physical and mental health in both urban and rural parts of the state.
Another priority was putting a focus on Iowa’s rural communities. At the beginning of session, I said that we needed to be intentional in our efforts to empower rural Iowa. We need to put our finger on the scale to ensure that are given more opportunity. This budget will include funding for a broadband grant program to expand access to high-speed, reliable internet in rural Iowa and underserved areas of the state. We are also budgeting for incentives that will spur housing development in our smaller communities so new workers have a place to live and growing employers can attract and retain the workforce they need.
Budget subcommittee chairs are working together closely to finalize individual line items and I expect they will come to an agreement soon. With the budget coming together our work in Des Moines is nearing its completion and adjournment is in sight.
As session continues to move forward, please feel free to reach out and share your thoughts. If I can be of any assistance, you can contact me by email at Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-3521.