DES MOINES | Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said Wednesday she hopes to have a bill moving in committee next week that sets the level of state aid to schools for fiscal 2019. Gov. Kim Reynolds made a budget proposal this week that sought an extra $54 million, or 1.5 percent, for K-12 school districts.
The governor’s plan also sought to give schools more flexibility to use as they see fit another $35 million in “categorical” funding that are earmarked for reducing class sizes. Sinclair said the education funding decision will be made in the session’s first 30 days but the money is dependent on legislative action to first deal with a projected $34.7 million shortfall in the current budget year that ends June 30.
Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he does not sense support for the governor’s proposal to move back the timetable for paying back $111 million borrowed from reserves to balance last year’s budget, which would mean paying the final $55 million installment in fiscal 2020.
“I think there are a lot of people in this body who would like to pay back those dollars quicker so we might not have the available dollars to get to the $54 million,” he said. “I think it will be tough to get to that number but we shall see.”
Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said “it would be premature to say that anything has been finalized” but House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, during a taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show, said it would be the goal of House Republicans to fund the governor’s education proposals.
“I think we’re sure going to find a way to do that, absolutely,” the Upmeyer said.
IOWA FUEL PRICES RISE: The price of retail fuel in Iowa rose four cents this week to $2.45 per gallon, according to survey data issued Wednesday by the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Retail diesel prices in Iowa rose two cents to $2.89 per gallon.
According to AAA, Iowa’s price for unleaded gasoline was nine cents a gallon higher than one year ago but was lower than the national average on Tuesday of $2.49 per gallon. Retail diesel prices in Iowa one year ago averaged $2.50. The current average diesel price nationally is $2.91 per gallon.
Turning to heating fuels, propane prices are a penny higher than last week’s price for a statewide average of $1.50 per gallon. Home heating oil prices rose two cents from last week’s figures, ending with a statewide average of $2.43, while natural gas prices fell 11 cents and ended the week at $2.90/MMbtu.
MASTER MATRIX: Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement on Wednesday called upon county boards of supervisors to re-adopt the Construction Evaluation Resolution by Jan. 31 in order to use the state Department of Revenue’s Master Matrix for 2018.
CCI officials say the Master Matrix is one of the few ways counties and citizens can weigh in on the construction of large-scale commercial animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in their communities. Supervisors are required to re-adopt the Master Matrix every single year, otherwise they will be unable to recommend siting denial of CAFOs that may raise objections within their county.
As of Jan. 9, 29 counties had passed it, according to DNR records. Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan independent, has filed a bill this session (Senate File 2009) that would establish a master matrix advisory committee to evaluate the use and value of the DNR’s master matrix and the process of evaluating and approving or disapproving applications to establish or expand large-scale confinement feeding operations for livestock.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The state budget is in crisis largely due to a revenue problem and I hope that we can tackle that. – Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, speaking as ranking member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee during Wednesday committee meeting.