Budget ideologies stall Iowa school funding approval
17 hours ago • Erin Murphy Times Bureau
DES MOINES — A weeks-long legislative tussle over school funding levels drags on at the Capitol, where leaders remain locked in an ideological disagreement over budgetary practices.
Leaders of the two political parties for weeks have been sharply divided over setting school funding levels for the 2015-2016 school year.
Republicans have proposed a 1.25 percent increase, saying anything more would cripple the state budget.
Democrats proposed a 6 percent increase and since have dropped their proposal twice, first to 4 percent and this week to 2.625 percent. They say anything less will lead to staff layoffs, reduced programs and larger class sizes.
Meantime, schools wait, facing an April 15 deadline to have their budgets certified.
“We think it’s time for House Republicans to move on that issue,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Friday as the leaders from both parties met with the media. “We have moved significantly further than our caucus found comfortable.”
At the heart of the school funding issue is the sides’ different views on the budgeting process.
Republicans are planning their budget based on the current fiscal year’s spending and projected revenues for the next fiscal year.
According to their analysis, that leaves roughly $180 million in new revenues, of which their proposal of a 1.25-percent school funding increase would use $50 million.
“We believed that was a number taxpayers could afford,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha said.
Democrats say the state has ample resources to provide a higher level of school funding. Their analysis includes surplus from the previous year, which they say gives them $500 million in new revenues, of which their 2.625-percent proposal would use $75 million.
“They (Republicans) say we don’t have enough money,” Gronstal said. “Well, there’s $500 million in additional spending authority and carryover and ending balance. And we can’t afford another $75 million? That’s ridiculous.”
But Republicans balk at using surplus funds on an annual expense such as school funding. Regularly, they say they will not use one-time funds for ongoing expenses.
“Clearly, (Democrats) have decided that it’s OK to spend more than what you bring in,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock. “They did this, made this (budgetary) mess by spending more than they brought in (during previous years). They’ve failed to learn the lessons of the past.”