Higher education, human services take biggest hit in final Branstad budget cuts

Governor Terry Branstad’s budget director has finally revealed how $11.5 million in “miscellaneous” spending cuts will be spread around state government before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. As expected, the ax will fall most heavily on higher education and human services–just like Branstad wanted all along.

Elected officials often bury bad news in a late Friday afternoon dump, but Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds went one step further to evade accountability: they didn’t even announce the cuts in a press release. Rather, at around 4:00 pm, Department of Management Director David Roederer relayed the news in a letter to the Iowa House chief clerk and the secretary of the Iowa Senate.

Iowa House and Senate Republicans have plausible deniability after calling for $11.5 million in unspecified “Department Operational Reductions” as part of Senate File 130, the “deappropriations” bill GOP lawmakers approved in late January. Let Roederer do the dirty work.

After the jump I’ve posted the document showing how much the latest cuts will affect each department or agency. For comparison, I also enclosed Branstad’s original spending cut proposal, announced January 10, and a document comparing those planned cuts with the deappropriations bill’s provisions.

The Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees state universities, stood to lose $25.5 million in Branstad’s plan. Senate File 130 imposed $18 million in cuts: $8 million each on the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, and $2 million for the University of Northern Iowa. Roederer took $2.75 million more: $1,237,500 from the U of Iowa, $990,000 from ISU, and $522,500 from UNI.

Branstad’s original plan took $8.7 million from the community college system. Senate File 130 reduced that to $3 million. Roederer imposed $1.75 million more cuts on community colleges.

Branstad proposed spending $20,296,531 less on human services between now and June 30. Senate File 130 added to the pain, cutting $22 million from the Department of Human Services. Roederer just added $3.5 million in cuts, which will affect some of Iowa’s most vulnerable people.

State Representative Chris Hall, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement on February 24: “It is shameless of the Branstad – Reynolds administration to cut more from community colleges, state universities, and public safety just days after rescinding scholarships and raising tuition on 3,000 students. The GOP’s reckless corporate giveaways led to these budget cuts and go against the very values of this state. In a matter of weeks, they have done serious damage to Iowa’s economy and future workforce.”

February 24 letter from David Roederer to the Iowa House and Senate:

Governor Terry Branstad’s original proposal for mid-year spending cuts to balance the fiscal year 2017 budget (released on January 10):

Document released by Iowa Democratic legislative staff, comparing mid-year spending cuts approved by Iowa Republican legislators to the governor’s original proposal:

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