December 09, 2021

Concerns and disappointments as session lingers

This was to be the final legislative update for the session as the 100th day came and went, but unfortunately, we didn’t close out the 87th General Assembly. It is disappointing we can’t work in a more efficient manner to accomplish the work we have been elected to do. We are heading into overtime with no clear vision of when an agreement will be met for the proposed tax plans and budget. With the majority party controlling both chambers and the governorship, it is surprising they can’t come to an agreement among themselves. The Senate decided to send their members home for the week after gaveling out April 17. It is discouraging and concerning that we will see this stalemate continue.

This legislative week did have some action in House Appropriations. The House has decided to move forward with their proposed budgets without an agreement with the Senate. Those budgets are Economic Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Transportation, Justice Systems and Judicial Branch. Below are a few highlights of the budgets. To read the entire budget bills look up the bill numbers on the legislative website.

HSB692, Economic Development Budget: The bill appropriates $670,000 more than FY18, with all departments, except Iowa Finance Authority, receiving an increase. This bill also appropriates $26 million in other funds in FY 19, $2.5 million less than FY 18.

HSB691, Agriculture and Natural Resource Budget: The bill appropriates $42 million from the Environment First Fund for FY 19. This is a status quo from estimated FY 18. The bill also appropriates $12 million from the Environment First Fund for the Resource Enhancement and Protections Fund (REAP) which is status quo. However, $2 million is scooped out of REAP for supporting state parks operations and maintenance.

HSB695, Transportation Budget: The bill matches the Governor’s recommendation. The proposal appropriates primarily from two different funds, the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTH) and Primary Road Fund (PRF) for a total of $380,792,669 in FY19, $5.8 million less than FY 18.

HSB694, Justice Systems Budget: The budget proposed for FY 19 is $586 million, including $17.92 million in other funds. This is an increase for departments from the FY 18 estimates but only brings them back to the 2016 levels which makes it a status quo. This budget addresses Department of Public Safety, Corrections and others within Justice Systems. Even though this is an increase from previous de-appropriations it is still severely underfunding public safety for the state. We are heading in the right direction but must do better moving forward.

HSB693, Judicial Branch Budget: The proposed FY 19 budget is $181.5 million which represents a combined $4.3 million increase from FY 18. It is great to see the increase in funding for our courts. However, we had a $3 million de-appropriation last year and a $1.6 million this session, so this increase brings them about back to about status quo. Once again, we are heading in the right direction, but can do better.

Again, these budget proposals passed out of House Appropriations and have not been agreed upon by the Senate, so they are likely to change. I do have some concerns with some of these budgets, and hope we can work to improve and in some cases not just shuffle the funds. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, serves House District 29, encompassing the majority of Jasper County. Contact Breckenridge at 515-281-3221 or wes.breckenridge@legis.iowa.gov