The most important bill we passed last week was the funding for K-12 education. The Senate and House agreed on an increase of roughly $99 million for the coming fiscal year.
Here is the breakdown: Supplemental State Aid: $85.57 million; School Transportation $7.65 million; Per Pupil Equalization $5.8 million; Total $99.02 million. Schools will now know what state funding they will receive so they can finalize their budgets. They know that they can count on receiving the money we promise them. Since fiscal year 2011, state K-12 spending has been increased by $934 million.
As usual, Democrats complained that we were not spending enough. One even bragged about how well they did when they had the governor’s office and controlled both chambers of the legislature. He obviously thought we would not remember that when they were in control, in 2010, they appropriated a 4 percent increase in school aid, then in October, Governor Culver made his famous 10 percent across the board cut in state spending, because they had appropriated more money than they had. That is the last time K-12 spending has been cut.
We passed a welfare reform bill (SF 2366) requiring able-bodied recipients to work, volunteer or obtain training for a job. There are exceptions for those unable to work. With our low unemployment rate and so many employers looking for qualified employees, there is no good excuse for able-bodied people to live off taxpayer money, contributing nothing in return.
The Senate passed House File 737, increasing penalties for animal abuse and neglect. I and other legislators received a significant number of e-mails on this bill.
We passed SF 2268 that raises the minimum age to purchase, possess or use tobacco, tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, vapor products, and cigarettes, to 21. This makes Iowa law consistent with federal law.
Revenue Estimating Conference
The Revenue Estimating Conference meets March 12, to give us their estimate of what the state’s revenue will be for the coming fiscal year. By law, we cannot spend more than 99% of the lower of the March estimate or the December 2019 estimate of available revenue. When we have this estimate, we will be able to seriously work on the state budget for the upcoming year. Since I am a member of the Appropriations Committee and I chair the Justice Systems Budget Subcommittee, I will have a strong voice in this process. You can be sure that I will advocate for a responsible budget, not spending right up to the legal limit.
New Supreme Court Justice
The State Judicial Nominating Commission is now interviewing applicants to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the resignation of Justice Wiggins. The Commission will recommend three applicants to the Governor and she must choose one of the 3. After the Governor makes her choice she and former Governor Branstad will have selected 6 of the 7 members of the supreme court.