Budget decisions matter. Decisions made this week in the House Appropriations committee will raise tuition at Iowa’s public institutions of higher education. This will lead to higher debt for Iowa students and families and ultimately fewer Iowans financially able to attend college.
The education budget approved on a party-line vote in the Appropriations committee cuts $31 million dollars from last year’s funding for the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University. All three universities informed the committee the cuts would lead directly to tuition increases. The committee approved an amendment offered as a political fig leaf to freeze tuition for the next school year.
The amendment was a lot of talk. It may mean tuition will remain the same next year, but the disastrous cuts will lead to fewer classes and majors. Instead of a small increase next year it will take five or six years for students to graduate costing tens of thousand of dollars more. While we focus this year on improving our pre-K to 12 education system, the budget approved this week puts a big “Dead End” sign for many Iowa high school seniors interested in attending one of our public universities.
Fewer Iowans able to access higher education also hurts the economy. Economic development today puts a premium on talent. Businesses want to locate and grow in areas with a highly educated workforce. The budget approved will lead to fewer Iowans with skills businesses need and more Iowans leaving the state because of their high debt load.
As promised, I posted my comments from the House floor on my amendment to the education reform bill that helps schools move toward more individualized education.
On to the update…
In This Issue
1. Governor Branstad’s Move to Close Job Centers Illegal
2. Funding for Road Repairs and Maintenance
3. Background Checks Required for School Bus Drivers
4. Capitol Visits
Governor’s Branstad’s Move to Close Job Centers Illegal
The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled Governor Branstad’s line-item veto that closed 36 workforce centers was a clear violation of separation of powers and unconstitutional. Last year, Democrats and Republicans worked together to provide funding to keep open existing workforce development field offices. Governor Branstad vetoed the language in the legislation mandating the field offices remain open but attempted to keep the money to spend on whatever he chose.
As a result of the Governor’s illegal veto, all state funding for workforce development was invalidated. While the ruling will not take effect for three weeks, I am committed to working together to take quick action to make sure unemployed and underemployed Iowans can get the assistance they need to land a good-paying job.
Funding for Road Repairs and Maintenance
Iowa has over 114,000 miles of roads and 25,000 bridges. Travel in Iowa has increased 36 percent, large truck travel has increased 42 percent, and permits issued the last five years by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for oversize/overweight vehicles has increased by 15 percent. Under legislation approved this week by the Iowa House, the DOT will receive $350 million from the road use tax fund and primary road fund for operations and highway maintenance. This is $4 million more than the current fiscal year.
The transportation budget also requires the DOT to track and report the one-time and long-term program efficiencies and partnerships they identified in the January 2012 Road Use Tax Fund Efficiency Report. The House amended Senate File 2314, which now goes back to the Senate to consider the House changes.
Background Checks Required for School Bus Drivers
The House passed legislation this week working to ensure children are being transported safely to and from school. Prior to hiring a school bus driver, school districts would be required to review the state sex offender registry, the state central registry for child abuse information, and the state central registry for dependent adult abuse information. Criminal records checks would also be required, but not as a condition on hiring. The same procedure would be required for the renewal of a school bus driver’s license every five years.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration.
Ron Hoffman visited the Capitol last week to talk about railroad safety legislation. Jessica Johnson, Grant Stevens, Robert Massey and Sean Ulmer were at the Capitol on Monday representing the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance to talk about the importance of arts to our communities and economy. I also had the pleasure of hosting Sam Semelroth and her father, Tim, in Des Moines on Monday. Bob King with UAW Retirees came to the Capitol on Tuesday.
Enjoy the rest of the week!