DES MOINES – The final day of state budget hearings turned out to be an expensive one for Gov. Terry Branstad.
Tuesday began with Charles Palmer, director of the state Department of Human Services, telling the governor that his agency would need a $137.8 million boost in state general fund spending to head off shifts from the federal government and to meet the growth in financing and staffing for programs that serve 965,247 Iowans. If fully funded, that would bring his department’s state funding to just under $1.8 billion for the fiscal year beginning next July 1.
Midday at the budget hearing room featured an appeal from the presidents of Iowa’s three state universities and the Board of Regents for a 4 percent increase in state funding to support operations that would enable them to freeze tuition for resident students for the next school year. The $44.2 million increase in operations was accompanied by an $89 million request to address deferred maintenance and fire and environmental safety deficiencies at the three campuses along with providing planning money for capital projects at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
“We believe our requests are reasonable,” regent president Bruce Rastetter told the governor and his administration’s budget team.
Also Tuesday, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey joined the fiscal 2015 chorus with requests to spend $6.65 million for the Iowa water quality initiative and $1 million to support urban conservation as part of his budget proposal for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
Northey’s agency received $2.4 million for the current fiscal year to support water quality efforts as well as $20 million in one-time appropriations to support conservation and water quality improvements in Iowa. He said the new request was “designed to help us build on the progress we have made at this point” in advancing “voluntary, science-based conservation efforts.”
The ag secretary also requested $1.2 million to support the closure of eight additional agriculture drainage wells.
Branstad, who instructed most state departments to expect status-quo budgets, said he and his staff won’t finalize funding decisions under the state Revenue Estimating Conference meets on Thursday. The governor has indicated he plans to present his fiscal 2015 spending plan to lawmakers with his Condition of the State address on Jan. 14.
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