Iowa priorities: Community college funding for Democrats, manufacturer tax break for Republicans

Branstad budget 'scooping money' from commmunity colleges, Democrats say

Mike Wiser
Published: January 16 2014 | 1:05 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:13 am in

Democrats say they’ll push for more community college money, while Senate Republicans want a tax break for manufacturers and to require constitutional citations for every law passed.

“It’s a commonsense approach. We just need to find a way to get that out of committee and up for a vote. Last year the Democrats blocked us,” Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said of the constitutional citation law. “In talking to our constituents and one neighbor talking to another neighbor, we know that two out of three of you think that’s a good idea.”

Dix’s comments came at the end-of-the-week legislative leaders briefing, a pair of back-to-back morning news conferences put on by the Democratic and Republican caucus leaders each Thursday during the legislative session.

The Democrats were united in criticizing Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s budget, saying that he is “scooping” money from the community colleges when he should be adding financial support.

“We do applaud the governor’s plan to freeze tuition at the three state universities, but the budget also ignores our community colleges next year,” said Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque. “Higher community college tuition would be one more barrier to Iowans trying to enter the middle class.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, suggested community colleges should have an additional $17.5 million in state money this year on top of their $193 million appropriation in order to cover regular growth in the community college system.

“The governor’s just scooping money, moving it around in a variety of ways, and that happens,” he said, adding that his budget staff identified $200,000 being moved out of community college programs. “Scooping it from something that he’s frozen their money in the first place really means they’re getting a cut.”

Gronstal stopped short of saying Democrats would ask for the full $17.5 million, but he added that the Democratic proposal will be “better for community colleges than the governor’s.”

Dix also said Senate Republicans would introduce legislation to end what he called “the double tax” on manufacturing, although he did not get into the specifics of how it would work.

“It’s something that’s very important to the manufacturing sector: not taxing the items that go into the making of an item and only allowing that to be taxed on the finished product,” he said.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he wants to see the details of how Dix’s proposal would work.

“I know we did something a few years ago for car washes and water,” he said. “But that’s as close as I can remember.”

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