DES MOINES — In what observers see as a sign of progress toward adjournment, Iowa lawmakers have begun approving budget bills, the one constitutional requirement on their must-do list.
The House on Thursday approved a $33.3 million increase in general fund support for education, including a $15.9 million hike for the three regent universities, $7 million more for community colleges and more than $15 million for scholarships and grants in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ priority, Future Ready Iowa, which pushes post-high school training and education for the state’s workforce.
.“I believe this is a good bill,” House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Kerr, R-Morning Sun, said about the $960 million budget package.
“It’ll get more students with financial needs into colleges and universities of their choice,” he said. “It will put new doctors into high-need rural areas. It’ll provide funding for around 7,500 Iowans to get them trained and into jobs that are in need of skilled employees. I believe this is a good bill.”
Not good enough for Democrats, though, who offered several amendments that were, for the most part, rejected by majority Republicans.
Democrats would have liked to support the education funding bill, Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, said, “because who doesn’t support education?”
“Democrats vote ‘yes’ on good bills,” she said. “I’m going to have to be a ‘no’ because that support is not reflected to the extent it should be in the bill before us. Our children deserve more.”
The House action followed Senate passage of a $405 million transportation budget earlier in the week. It included $51.5 million from the Road Use Tax Fund and $353 million from the Primary Road Fund. That’s an increase of $15.2 million compared to the current budget.
House Republicans highlighted these line items in House File 758 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88 & ba=hf758: $7 million increase for community colleges; $15.9 million increase for Iowa, Iowa State, and the University of Northern Iowa; $14.8 million for Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarships and $1 million for the grant program; and $355,823 increase for career technical education.
Also, $3 million for mental health awareness training; $159,146 increase for All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship; $300,00 increase for the Rural Primary Care Loan Program; $1 million increase for Early Childhood Iowa; $1 million more for iJAG (Jobs for America’s Grads); $400,000 increase for the Iowa School for the Deaf; and a $167,000 increase for services for Blind and Visually Impaired.