Former residents of the Iowa Juvenile Home have testified before lawmakers in the state Senate. Gassman met and talked to several girls who have gone through the program and several of the employees that work with the youth from the Iowa Juvenile Home. Representative Ted Gassman said, “It seems the Des Moines register went overboard about what was actually happening at the Iowa Juvenile Home. These young ladies do not have a place to put their lives back in order like the boys do in Eldora. Is this the way we want to handle this situation? I’m sure Governor Branstad’s heart is in the right place but the people I talked to feel that they did a good job helping these youth get their lives in order. The youth that I talked to tell me that their lives were changed for the best. When we get all said and done we need to do what is right for these children.”
With the release of Governor Terry Branstad’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal, many Iowans are giving the state budget a close look. And with the proposed $507.8 million increase in state spending, people are asking where all this new money is going.
Much of the new spending proposed by the Governor Branstad comes as a result of legislation passed during the 2013 session. The single largest increase is for the $245 per student increase in state supplemental aid for schools. Gassman said, “With the current enrollment projections for the 2014-2015 school year, this commitment to provide a four percent increase will result in $155.4 million of new financial support to Iowa schools. In addition to that, schools will also be receiving an additional $50.3 million to fund the various efforts included in the Education Reform package for this year. These two funding sources will raise the per pupil spending in FY 2015 to approximately $10,000 per student.”
Fiscal Year 2015 will also be the first year that the landmark Commercial Property Tax Reform legislation will be in effect. Commercial property tax credits and replacement of commercial property tax revenue for local governments will be funded this year. The Governor has proposed $50 million for the credits and $70 million for the replacement of lost property tax revenue to cities and counties.
Gassman said, “For the past several years, the federal government’s share of Iowa’s Medicaid program has been declining significantly. But the decrease in the federal share had never been as much as it is in FY 2015, when Washington will be sending 2.21 percent less to Iowa. This amounts to an $86.6 million increase in the state costs for Medicaid and other programs in the Department of Human Services. With program growth included, the Governor is asking for a Medicaid increase of $97.7 million and an additional $9.1 million for the HAWK-I program.”
When these five programs are combined, they account for $433 million of new spending in the FY 2015 budget. The remaining $75 million of increases address freezing tuition at the three Regents Universities, funding the state’s Technology Reinvestment Fund out of the General Fund, addressing the funding requests of the Judicial Branch, and providing funding for the Governor’s Apprenticeship and Homebase Iowa policy initiatives.
As a whole, 41 percent of new money goes to various levels of Iowa’s education system. The first year of commercial property tax reform uses 24 percent of the increase. Medicaid, HAWK-I and the other programs of the Department of Human Services receives 21 percent of the new money. And the rest of state government gets the remaining 14 percent.