Ashley’s Angle: Week One 1/12/17

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What a week!

I have truly enjoyed my first week as a public servant in the 87th General Assembly. I was sworn in and signed the Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution of the State of Iowa. I am honored to serve as your representative. I’ve met with constituents, business and city leaders, and have been hard at work with my committee assignments.

In my role as Vice-Chair of Appropriations, I’ve begun looking for ways to further create efficiency in our state government. Our focus right now is to reduce the current fiscal year’s budget by $117 million—a tough but manageable task. The sluggish agricultural economy combined with a slower-than-expected revenue growth to create a hiccup in our process, but we’re moving forward and will soon finalize our budget and our Supplemental School Aid—a priority for me in the first 30 days. I think it is also important to point out that our economy is still growing, just not at the rate at which economists thought it would last year. At a time when the state is experiencing revenue growth, I am firmly against tapping the Economic Emergency or Cash Reserve funds to balance the budget.

In addition to the Appropriations meeting, I also had meetings for Judiciary and Transportation, and the Justice Systems budget sub-committee. We will be busy this year!

House Republicans are committed to funding the priorities of Iowans in a thoughtful and responsible way. That means sticking to our budget principles of spending less than we take in, not using one-time funds for ongoing needs, not intentionally underfunding state programs to balance the budget, and returning unused tax-dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

Some things that we will work on in the upcoming months that you have specifically asked me for at the door, in emails and phone calls are:

  • Flexibility for schools:  Providing flexibility to locally elected school boards by loosening restrictions and allow more local decision making.
  • Water Quality:  We will continue to work on solutions to clean up our water resources, which in turn protects your health.
  • An Environment for Growth:  Simply put, we need to make sure our tax code is simpler, fairer, and more competitive. It’s something I campaigned on at thousands of doors, and am already working with other members of the House on pushing forward.

I am considering several bills to sign on to as co-sponsor, and have my own to-do list that is 11 pages long—filled with your ideas. One bill I signed on to co-sponsor would require more financial literacy education for Iowa’s students. Everyone should graduate knowing how to manage their money in a responsible way. I also filed my first bill yesterday—one I am hoping will help eventually lead to a big investment in the Cedar Rapids community.

Governor Branstad Unveils FY 2018, 2019 Budget Proposals

Governor Terry Branstad released his final budget proposal on Tuesday, proposing a funding plan that devotes significant new resources to education and commits additional state resources to water quality initiatives across Iowa.

The Governor is proposing to spend $7.4569 billion from the General Fund in FY 2018.  This would be $219.2 million more than the Governor’s revised spending level for FY 2017.  This amounts to a 3.03 percent in spending.  The expenditure limitation for FY 2018 under the Governor’s proposal is $7.4606 billion, meaning the Governor is spending $3.7 million below the expenditure limit.  The ending balance under the FY 2018 proposal would be $84.2 million.

For FY 2019, the Governor is proposing a General Fund budget of $7.6234 billion.  This would be $166.5 million more than his proposal for FY 2018.  The expenditure limitation FY 2019 would be $7.7896 billion, putting the Governor’s budget $171.2 million below the limit.  The Governor’s projected ending balance at the end of FY 2019 would be $249.8 million.

Below are the Governor’s proposals for two areas that I plan on paying very close attention to, school aid and water quality.

FY 2018 Supplemental State Aid for schools – the Governor is proposing to increase Supplemental State Aid by $78.8 million for the 2017-2018 school year.  This increase of $84.8 million will raise State Foundation School Aid funding to $3.2549 billion.  Implementation of this figure for FY 2018 and transferring the final portion of the Teacher Leadership program into Foundation School Aid would mean schools had received an additional $773.1 million since FY 2011, which is an increase of 31.15% during that time period.

For FY 2019, the Governor is recommending an additional $63.5 million for school aid.

Among the other K-12 education increases provided by the Governor are an additional $3.5 million for the Reading Coaching and Professional Learning program and an additional $1.2 million for the Early Literacy Early Warning System.

Higher Education – funding for the three universities would be reduced by $25.6 million in FY 2017 under the Governor’s de-appropriations proposal.  The Governor provided an additional $11.5 million in general aid funding for the three Regents universities in FY 2018.    For community colleges, the Governor is proposing to reduce FY 2017 funding by $8.7 million.  In FY 2018, the Governor would provide an increase of $4.1 million in general aid funding.  For Iowa’s private colleges, the Governor is proposing to increase funding for the Tuition Grant program by $979,000.  This amount would equal 2 percent.  Also, the Governor is increasing funding for the National Guard Benefits Program by $3 million.

Water Quality – the Governor is proposing to implement a water quality improvement plan, based on the bipartisan bill passed by the Iowa House last spring.  The FY 2018 budget would provide an additional $3.7 million in General Fund dollars to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for water quality improvement activities.   The Governor is also requesting a $4.3 million increase in Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund dollars going to water quality efforts.