The nice thing about a large majority, like the 60 to 40 Republican advantage in the Iowa House, is not needing every vote in your caucus for every bill. Members can oppose the party line when local interests are threatened without derailing the legislative process. Retiring State Representative Steve Lukan showed how it’s done when he voted against the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund budget in the House Appropriations Committee last week, because that bill left out $5 million in funding for a major project in Lukan’s district.
This basic concept of representing your constituents is apparently lost on Walt Rogers. The first-term Republican from a district covering parts of Cedar Falls and Waterloo just voted for an education budget that slashes funding for the University of Northern Iowa.
UPDATE: Scroll down for Rogers’ weekly newsletter, which discusses his vote on the education budget.
Yesterday the House approved Senate File 2321, an education budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate passed this bill by a party-line vote on March 19. House Republicans support lower levels of education spending, so the House Appropriations Committee recommended passing an amended version of Senate File 2321. The House Republican amendment included $115 million less in funding for state universities, community colleges, tuition assistance and the Iowa Department of Education. Compared to the Senate bill, the House bill provides about $29.8 million less in state funding for the University of Iowa during the next fiscal year, about $19 million less to Iowa State University, and about $14 million less to the University of Northern Iowa.
The House journal for March 27 (pdf) covers yesterday’s floor debate in detail. State representatives rejected several Democratic amendments seeking to restore funds for various education programs by party-line votes. A few proposals received bipartisan support, such as a community college tuition freeze for the 2012/2013 academic year.
After considering all the amendments, the House approved the GOP version of Senate File 2321 by 56 votes to 42. The roll call shows that three Republicans–Josh Byrnes, Brian Moore, and Dave Deyoe–joined every Democrat present to oppose final passage of this bill. Byrnes is a former high school teacher who works for North Iowa Area Community College. Moore represents a Democratic-leaning district in eastern Iowa. Deyoe represents a large part of Story County outside Ames, so while the Iowa State University campus is not in his district, many of his constituents are affiliated with ISU. Note that Deyoe opposed the pared-down education budget even though he is on the House Republican leadership team.
Since Rogers represents part of Cedar Falls and Waterloo, I would have expected him to stand up for the University of Northern Iowa. It’s not as if Iowa doesn’t have the cash to increase higher education funding; state revenue estimates for the coming fiscal year have grown. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported a few days ago, “Republicans serving the Cedar Valley, like State Rep. Walt Rogers, have said they are also trying to increase money to UNI to prevent 58 graduate and undergraduate programs from being cut.” Rogers also joined two GOP colleagues to seek an opinion from Attorney General Tom Miller on whether the Iowa Board of Regents have the authority to close the UNI-operated Malcolm Price Laboratory School. (Miller declined to issue an opinion, citing pending litigation.)
The House version of next year’s education budget could have passed without Rogers’ vote. I am seeking comment on why he supported this bill and will update the post if I hear back from him.
Meanwhile, Iowa House Democrats sent out this press release within hours of yesterday’s budget vote:
Des Moines, Iowa – Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Waterloo, joined House Republican leaders today in voting to slash $14 million from the University of Northern Iowa. Instead of receiving an $11 million increase over last year as approved by the Iowa Senate, Republicans changed the bill and cut UNI by another $3 million next year.
“We’ve already seen the devastating impact of severe budget cuts at UNI and with $1 billion in surplus and reserves this year, we can do better,” said House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines. “Rep. Rogers refused to stand up for the UNI community today and backed his party leaders instead. Rep. Rogers claims he supports UNI, but he has voted against UNI at every turn.”
Last week, Rep. Rogers joined Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee to take out $14 million dedicated to UNI next year in the Senate budget (Senate File 2321) and made the same vote on the House floor today. Earlier this year, Rep. Rogers voted to eliminate the UNI Metal Casting Center (House File 2337). Last year, Rep. Rogers voted to cut over $7 million from UNI and close UNI’s Institute for Decision Making.
The Republican cuts to UNI were just one part of the education budget approved today which slashed funding by $115 million total for state universities, community colleges, and tuition assistance. Under the Republican budget plan, funding for Iowa’s community colleges would be reduced $25 million and Iowa’s three public universities would receive $65 million less. The bill, Senate File 2321, now goes back to the Senate.
UNI’s annual budget is approximately $160 million, so a difference of $14 million in state funding is a large chunk of change. House and Senate leaders will negotiate a compromise education budget in conference committee, so the final level of state support for UNI next fiscal year is unlikely to be as low as in the spending bill the House approved yesterday. To my mind, that makes Rogers’ vote even more foolish. Why go on record supporting cuts to one of the largest employers in your district? UNI employs approximately 1,850 people in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metro area. CORRECTION: According to UNI human resources staff, the university supports 1,894 permanent jobs, plus 692 temporary jobs, plus approximately 3,300 part-time student jobs.
State support for UNI is sure to be a recurring theme of this year’s election campaign in the new Iowa House district 60, covering parts of southern Cedar Falls and southwest Waterloo.
Rogers enjoys a GOP edge in voter registration. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, House district 60 contained 6,287 Democrats, 7,553 Republicans, and 8,298 no-party voters as of March 2012 (pdf).
Rogers has shown himself to be a strong campaigner. He almost defeated incumbent State Senator Jeff Danielson in 2008, a strong year for Democratic turnout in Iowa. Rogers lost to Danielson by just 22 votes out of more than 32,000 cast (pdf). In 2010, Rogers defeated Democratic incumbent Doris Kelley in the old House district 20 by more than 900 votes.
The March 6 press release announcing Rogers’ re-election campaign indicates that he has become a favorite of Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen:
“I ran my 2010 campaign on a platform of ‘smaller, smarter government,’” said Rogers. “We have made real progress toward this goal, and I hope to continue representing the Cedar Valley in the Iowa House of Representatives.”
Though a freshman legislator, Rogers has been identified as a rising star among the House majority. According to House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, “Walt Rogers is one of the hardest workers in the Iowa House and is doing a remarkable job representing his district.”
Speaker Paulsen recently nominated Rogers to attend GOPAC’s Emerging Leaders Class of 2012; only 15 freshman legislators nationwide are invited to attend.
Rogers is currently working for passage of a constitutional amendment limiting government spending to 99% of revenues and requiring a 3/5 majority vote in each chamber of the legislature for any tax increases. He is the floor manager for SF 430, a bill putting real power behind Iowa’s open meetings and open records law, and HF 2390, which helps county attorneys more effectively prosecute human trafficking and child pornography crimes.
Rogers serves on the Appropriations, Judiciary, State Government, and Transportation committees and is the vice chair of the Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee. He was elected in 2010 to represent then-House District 20.
Walt Rogers has been married to Jenny, a Speech-Language Pathologist employed by Area Education Agency 267, for 31 years; Walt and Jenny have three children and four grandchildren. Rogers grew up in west Waterloo and currently resides in Cedar Falls. The new House District 60 is comprised of much of west Waterloo and southern Cedar Falls, Hudson, and southwestern rural Black Hawk County.
There are 22 first-term Republicans in the Iowa House. Choosing Rogers for a national GOPAC event suggests that Paulsen will commit whatever resources he needs for the race in the new House district 60.
Rogers may also benefit from outside financial support. He endorsed Rick Santorum for president last summer and recently came out for fellow Santorum backer Ben Lange in the GOP primary to represent Iowa’s first Congressional district. Nick Ryan chairs a 527 group called the Team Iowa PAC, which has gotten involved in many statehouse races, most recently last year’s special election in Iowa Senate district 18. Ryan is the founder of the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, which spent more than $1 million trying to defeat Ben Lange’s opponent Bruce Braley in 2010. Ryan also worked as a paid consultant for Santorum’s presidential campaign in 2011 and runs the pro-Santorum super-PAC.
Rogers raised $14,709 in 2011. His itemized contributions don’t show anything from Nick Ryan or the Team Iowa PAC so far, just individual contributions and money from PACs that give to most incumbent legislators.
The Democratic challenger in House district 60 is Waterloo City Council member Bob Greenwood. Besides being elected three times to the city council as an at-large member, Greenwood is a pharmacist who owns Greenwood Drug, Professional Compounding Center in Waterloo and a pharmacy in Denver (Bremer County). Excerpt from his campaign announcement of July 2011:
“After growing up around the family owned grocery store in Farley and owning my own main street business for nearly 30 years, I understand the values, needs, and expectations of Iowans and our local community,” said Greenwood. “I will always put partisanship, and ideology aside to do what’s best for our community.”
Greenwood, who was born and raised in Iowa, has been a community leader for decades and is currently his third term as a Waterloo City Council at-large member. He is a member of St. Edward Catholic Church in Waterloo where he has served on the Parish Council, Finance committee, and the Waterloo Catholic Deanery Council.
“I am running for state representative because I want to make sure the next generation – including my own children – have the same opportunities I did growing up in Iowa. We need good paying jobs, strong quality of life, and world class schools. Knowing the important roles that the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College play in our community, I will do all I can to strengthen those institutions and keep tuition affordable,” added Greenwood.
As President of the National Community Pharmacists Association, Greenwood is also a national leader on health care issues. Greenwood added, “As health care changes continue in Iowa, I look forward to using my experience to help improve both the quality and affordability of health care in Iowa.”
Bob and his wife Chery have been married for 28 years and they have three children, Joe and wife Torie, Tim, and Abby. He has been involved in Waterloo Housing Authority, Columbus High School Strategic Planning Committee, Waterloo Visiting Nurses Association, American Diabetes Association, Pheasants Forever, Iowa Pharmacist’s Association, and Creighton University Pharmacy School Advisory Committee.
Mysteriously, Greenwood raised absolutely no money in 2011, despite declaring his campaign with nearly six months left in the year. Perhaps there is a strategy behind not showing your cards early; many GOP challengers who lagged in the 2010 money race ended up winning their elections. But Greenwood will need to step up his fundraising if he wants to beat Rogers. Iowa House Democratic leaders have a lot of seats to play for and can’t be counted on to match whatever Paulsen will spend defending House district 60.
Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Rogers devoted most of his weekly newsletter of March 29 to his vote on the education budget. Excerpts:
Rogers’ Capitol Review
HOUSE PASSES RESPONSIBLE EDUCATION BUDGET
The House passed the Education Appropriations bill this week by a vote of 56-24 after many hours of debate. The bill, in the end, spends $775 million to fund the Department of Education (including the State Library, Early Childhood Iowa, community colleges, vocational rehab, and Iowa Public Television), the Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission (including tuition grants), and the Board of Regents.
The budget the House passed lives within the means of the state and follows my principles of spending less than the state takes in and fulfilling the Legislature’s promises to the state. It’s a credible budget that keeps community college funding at the previous year’s level, funds the Iowa Tuition Grants at last year’s level. It also restored the cut to the Jobs for America’s Grads program.
That isn’t to say there weren’t difficult choices made. Several tuition grant programs were cut, including the Nurse Educator Loan program and the Barber & Cosmetology Grant program. The subcommittee felt those were grants that didn’t warrant state funds when other parts of the budget were facing cuts. Additionally, Iowa Public Television received a $2.6 million reduction, as the subcommittee felt federal funds and public donations on top of the remaining $4 million could keep IPTV going. The Regents Universities funding included about a 6% cut. Accounting for funding that is allocated outside of this budget, the net cut equals about 2%.
House Democrats offered amendments for an additional $108 million in spending. None passed.
House Republicans value education. This is reflected in the budget that was passed last year and the budget that is being crafted this year. House Republicans value living within our means and spending less than we take in. This does not mean spending every dime available. The Education budget the House passed reflects all of these values.
The bill will travel back to the Senate where it is unlikely to be accepted. Eventually it will end up in a conference committee where final determinations are made.
MY VOTE ON THE EDUCATION BUDGET
I am committed to lowering the tax burden on people of the Cedar Valley and of Iowa. Previous Legislatures spent Iowans’ hard earned tax dollars with reckless abandon. They did not use sound budget practices or sustained cash reserves. They continue to put forth irresponsible earmarks. A sound economic principle is this; every dollar taken from the taxpayer and given to the government becomes less efficient. I campaigned on those issues and will vote that way.
Since 1998, the budgets at Iowa’s universities have continued to grow at an unsustainable rate. For too long that burden has just been pushed onto the backs of our students, which is not fair. It’s time that these institutions look for efficiencies and savings in their budgets just like every Iowan is doing. I did not support efforts by Democrats to once again hand universities a blank check to continue unsustainable spending while at the same time saddling our students with higher tuitions and more debt. The people of the Cedar Valley sent me to Des Moines to protect their pocketbooks and fund their priorities. I will continue to work with university officials, Legislators and Iowans to advocate for the special circumstances at the University of Northern Iowa and develop the best solutions for everyone involved.
DID YOU KNOW PART OF TUITION COSTS ARE SET ASIDE FOR OTHER STUDENTS?
This is an article written by my fellow Representative, Scott Raecker (www.raeckerbacker.com):
Starting in the late 1980s the University of Iowa (Iowa), Iowa State University (ISU), and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) implemented a practice of setting aside a portion of tuition payments to offer as scholarships to other students.
In September 2004, the Board of Regents (BOR) approved a formal policy that requires the public universities to set-aside a minimum of 15% of gross tuition proceeds for student financial aid. Many universities in other states have similar policies.
In FY 2011, over $144 million (21.3%) of tuition proceeds was set-aside and awarded to undergraduates and graduate/professional students as need-based and merit-based aid at all three institutions. A total of 25,583 undergraduate students received student financial aid through the tuition set-aside funds.
Each university sets the amount of tuition set aside for scholarship of other students. The percentage and amounts vary between each school, undergraduate and graduate, and resident and non-resident tuition. The following percentages of resident tuition are set aside for each institution: Iowa – 24%, ISU – 18.6%, UNI – 15.3%.
For undergraduate students the current effect of the policy is that $1,864 of the $7,765 tuition bill at the University of Iowa is used to offset scholarships of other students. At ISU – $1,392 of the $7,486 tuition bill goes to other students and at UNI – $980 of the $6,408 tuition bill is applied to other students’ scholarships rather than direct costs of the paying student.
I have asked numerous constituents who have attended, or have students attending, Iowa, ISU and UNI if they are aware of the set aside. Not a single person was aware of the policy – and every person felt strongly that the policy should be disclosed to those paying tuition.
The current policy is disclosed in the Financial Statements of each institution and is discussed annually at a BOR meeting and with each respective Student Senate. I commend members of the BOR leadership, and our university presidents, for working to enhance disclosure by drafting a policy proposal that would “provide each student a notice of the specific amount of tuition set aside that is required” by each institution. This notice would be prominently printed in student tuition statements, receipts, and e- mails sent to students regarding tuition.
The BOR is committed to the integrity of the institutions, and to openness and transparency of policies impacting students. It is critical that the BOR act swiftly to implement the proposed disclosure policy to inform students of the practice to use a portion of their tuition payments to subsidize other students’ education costs.