Iowa Senate – Steve Sodders:
Committee work on bills is in full swing. The committees and appropriations sub-committees are not only moving bills, but they are also hearing updates from the various departments and organizations they fund. For example, we had a three hour marathon Appropriations meeting, where we heard from the Board of Regents on funding for the three state universities. Discussed was the new formula for distributing the funds between the three universities that is based partly on the number of Iowa students they are serving.
In the Public Safety meeting, we heard from the Criminal Investigation Crime Lab on Synthetic Cannabinoids. These drugs are complex chemical formulations that are sprayed on plant matter and smoked under the premise that it is synthetic marijuana. These drugs can be hundreds of times more potent than herbal marijuana and are extremely dangerous. The producers change the formulas rapidly to avoid the law and sell these drugs legally in gas stations and other shops around the state.
Iowa House – Dawn Pettengill:
What’s happening in the statehouse? Conservation wants us to increase the sales tax another penny. That would take us up to 8 cents on the dollar when you count the school and local penny and 3/8 of that cent would go to Conservation. The House voted to give K-12 education another $80 per pupil, which is another $100 million, but they wanted $240 million. Plus, we have big infrastructure needs and are trying to figure out how to get $210 million more a year of ongoing money into the Road Use Tax Fund.
Almost every conversation involves someone needing money, but the elephant in the room nobody is talking about — the looming dollar increase needed to completely fund Medicaid. In 2011, the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) was 63.51%. For every dollar spent, the federal government paid $ .6351. The FMAP has decreased every year and the state has picked up more of the cost each of those years. With 54.91% as the 2016 FMAP, we are expecting to need an additional $150 million over last year to fund it completely for a total of $1,574,569,144. Every budget impacts Iowans, but this one hits the most vulnerable people and there are no busses full of poor people coming to the Capitol to lobby us. We just know we have to take care of them.