This week the conference committee meeting on the bills setting Supplemental State Aid (SSA) for K-12 schools came to an agreement. This committee consists of an even number of Democrats and Republicans with members from both chambers. The Senate had passed a 4% increase for SSA, and the House had passed 2%. The final agreement was for an increase of 2.25%. This comes to an overall increase of $153.8 million for our K-12 schools. The 2% increase previously passed by the House was based on the December fiscal year 2017 Revenue Estimate. The March fiscal year 2017 Revenue Estimate was slightly higher than our preliminary budget targets, allowing this increase to 2.25%. K-12 funding represents 43% of the total state budget, yet this $153.8 million represents 87% of the “new money” that we have in our budget over last year. This is the sixth year in a row that schools have received a funding increase, totaling $660 million. More importantly, schools have been able to depend on that funding from the General Fund. When the Democrats controlled both chambers and the governor’s office they had made an ugly habit of passing SSA increases they had no intention of following through with from the General Fund. Those shortfalls then fell on the backs of property taxpayers who were forced to pick up the tab. Clearly the Iowa House has put our K-12 schools first when it comes to funding in all respects.
The debate on the floor of the House showed that the Democrats in the legislature still cling to the idea of a 4% increase for our schools. However, they have not articulated any plan of where the additional $72 million would come from. House Republicans remain committed to living within our means by not spending more than we take in. The floor debate also contained claims of teacher lay-offs as a result of this 2.25% funding increase. Those words rang hollow given the facts. The number of full time teachers in Iowa classrooms has increased by 809 since Republicans gained the majority in the House. That growth is outpacing growth in student enrollment.
Now that the March Revenue Estimating Conference is behind us, the House and Senate are working on joint budget targets for each of the budget bills.
Other Bills of Note
House File 2279 – this bill makes it legal for Iowans to possess noise suppressors for firearms. The Senate returned the bill to the House this week with a minor change. The House concurred with the amendment, sending the bill to the governor.
House File 2357 – this is a bill that I floor managed that directs the DNR to set turtle seasons and bag limits. It has been signed by the governor. This is a step forward in protecting our native species from the high demand from the Asian markets for turtle meat. It will also encourage a shift to farm raised turtles to fulfill this market demand.
Please note that the Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum previously scheduled for April 8 has been cancelled.
A representative from Senator Ernst’s office will be available at the times and places below to answer your questions and help with problems involving issues like Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits or military affairs, passports, immigration issues, and other federal programs
Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 11:00 AM-12:00 PM
Traer Public Library and Cultural Center
531 2nd Street, Traer, IA
Friday, April 1, 2016, 9:00-10:00 AM
Marshall County Courthouse
Meeting Room 2
1 E. Main Street, Marshalltown, IA
I would love to have you come down to the Capitol any Monday through Thursday to visit, discuss your concerns with me, and take a tour of this beautiful building. It is one of Iowa’s treasures.
As always, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 641-750-3594.