116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Senate Republicans set a $7.999 billion target for next year's state spending, but conceded the amount likely will go higher as they negotiate funding for broadband expansion and other priorities with Gov. Kim Reynolds and majority Republicans in the House.
'Right now is really just the beginning of the budgeting process,' Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, told Statehouse reporters Wednesday. 'The sprint to the finish will start today with these budget targets coming out.'
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the GOP budget targets ignored the thousands of working Iowans who were hit in the pocketbook last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
'There's no excuse for Statehouse Republicans who are ignoring the economic and health care crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic,' Bolkcom said in a statement.
'Thankfully, help is on the way because of the American Rescue Plan,' he said. 'President Biden is leading the way by putting money directly into the hands of Iowans, lifting thousands of Iowa children out of poverty, helping Iowa businesses hit hard by the pandemic, and making health care affordable for many Iowans.'
Whitver said the preliminary numbers majority GOP senators rolled out represent a $195 million increase over the current state budget.
It includes $80 million for education, $98 million for health care and $60 million for mental-health services, while providing tax relief by eliminating the 2018 income tax 'triggers,' the mental-health levy on property taxes and phasing out the state's inheritance tax.
'As I say frequently, as long as I am leader and Republicans are in the majority in the Senate, we will work toward tax relief for working families,' Whitver said.
'This budget keeps the promise our members made to Iowans to reduce taxes on Iowa families, small businesses and farmers by accounting for the removal of the triggers, phasing out the inheritance tax and over $100 million in property tax relief,' he said.
Whitver said the spending targets do not include money for broadband expansion at this point, but the nearly $8 billion he proposed represented about 94 percent of available revenue under Iowa's 99 percent spending limitation law. So there is room to negotiate one-time allocations with the governor and House Republicans.
Whitver said he expected a 'significant' investment in broadband would be part of the final budget agreement.
But he said Republican senators 'haven't had a lot of conversation yet with the House and the governor on what the total amount will be.' Whatever the final broadband investment is, he said, 'it will easily fit below the available revenue.'
Last January Reynolds proposed an $8.1 billion state spending plan for fiscal 2022 — a 3.7 percent increase that would fund priorities in broadband expansion, K-12 and higher education and mental health programs for adults and children.
The governor's plan called for boosting state general-fund appropriations by $331.4 million, with the bulk going to a three-year, $450 million broadband plan for 'the biggest build-out in the country,' given network vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic.
Along with the $150 million yearly installments for broadband, she proposed a 2.5 percent increase in state aid to K-12 schools and community colleges and a $15 million increase to regent universities, $38.7 million for Medicaid and human services needs and $15 million for mental health.
House Republicans have not issued their fiscal 2022 state budget targets yet.
The Senate GOP proposal included increases of $55.3 million for K-12 education; $25 million for higher education, including additional money for Last Dollar Scholarships; $98.1 million for health care funding, including $15 million for nursing home providers and home- and community-based service providers; $60 million for mental health services; $13 million for public safety, with an almost $5 million increase for the Department of Public Safety and just over $4 million for the Department of Corrections.
'For four years, Republicans have been managing the state budget in the same way Iowans manage the family budget,' said Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. 'This budget provides reliable, sustainable increases in K-12 education, funds significant increases to public safety, including a $4 million increase for correctional officers, and a $60 million increase in mental health funding.'
Whitver said majority Republicans are proceeding with their fiscal 2022 spending plan without given consideration to the federal relief money for Iowa that was included in the $1.9 trillion package recently approved by Congress and signed by President Biden.
'We still need to figure out all the strings attached to that,' he said. 'We've really set that aside and said we'll look at that in possibly next year's budget or in the future. We don't want to use that money only to have it clawed back.'
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