DES MOINES – Gov. Terry Branstad got a broad range of positive and critical observations about the direction of Iowa’s financial policies and how the state show prioritize its resources in the upcoming year during Monday’s hour-long public hearing on the fiscal 2015 budget.
Representatives from Iowa business and agricultural groups applauded the governor for getting and keeping the state’s fiscal house in order and hoped more state money would be used to lower and simplify taxes, upgrade state-owned buildings and roads, expand conservation measures, and continue efforts to improve worker skills.
Citizen activists decried policies that give tax breaks to out-of-state corporations and shield factory farms from clean-water regulations, while several parents’ right speakers criticized the Department of Human Services’ handling of child welfare and adoption services.
Two Des Moines young people, Forrest LaPrade and Henry Gunderson, urged the governor to look at ways to enhance Iowa’s state park system, while several representatives from the telecommunications industry applauded Iowa’s effort to expand broadband access but noted it’s an expensive proposition that likely will need state assistance.
Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, a federally funded organization that advocates for the disabled and brought allegations of inappropriate use of physical restraints and isolation rooms at the Iowa Juvenile Home to light, applauded the decision to close the Toledo facility.
Hudson told the governor that two girls who were held in seclusion for extended periods have made marked improvements and she hoped a share of the $10.5 million used to fund the Toledo operation would be used to provide compensatory education for students who received substandard services during their stints at the facility.
Branstad said the yearly public hearing is an opportunity for Iowans to share their views directly with him before his administration begins formulating its legislative and budget package for the 2014 General Assembly.
“It’s important for me to listen,” Branstad told reporters after the hearing that drew 22 speakers. “Now the hard work begins,” he added.
Branstad instructed most state departments to expect status-quo funding for the budget year that begins next July 1, and he noted that about 86 percent of next fiscal year’s budget already was set during the 2013 session under the state’s biennial budgeting approach.
Branstad and the split-control Legislature enter a new state budgeting cycle having already made multi-year commitments to reduce property and income tax burdens. They also promised a 4 percent boost in state aid along with money for education reforms and face higher Medicaid costs due to federal shifts at a time when state agencies have submitted fiscal 2015 seeking to boost spending by 7.9 percent.
Branstad said now that the state Revenue Estimating Conference has set expected state tax collections for next fiscal year at just under $7 billion, his staff will begin its budget deliberation with plans to submit his recommendations to lawmakers with his Condition of the State address on Jan. 14.Comments: (515) 243-7220; email@example.com