This week saw the continuation of the stalemate over school funding as Senate Democrats and House Republicans continue to struggle to find common ground on this key expenditure item. In truth, no meaningful work on the budget will move forward until this conflict is resolved. As a refresher on the most recent spending increases for supplemental state aid to our K-12 schools:
- FY12 0% $178 million new spending (increase reflects state picking up the full cost of its share of school spending – the FY11 budget offloaded this portion of the cost to local taxpayers)
- FY13 2% $30 million new spending
- FY14 4% $122 million new spending
- FY15 4% $148 million new spending
- FY16 1.25% House proposal -- $100 million new spending
- FY16 4% Senate proposal -- $212 million new spending
Revenue Estimating Conference to Meet Next Week
On March 15 the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) will convene to review their projections regarding anticipated revenue for FY 16 (the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2015 and for which the Governor and General Assembly are negotiating a budget).
Back in December 2014 the REC projected FY 16 revenue at a growth rate of 4.9% over FY 15. As per Iowa law, Governor Branstad based his budget recommendations on the December REC estimate. However, the March 15 REC meeting takes on additional importance as softness in the farm economy could be enough to force the REC to lower the estimate for FY 16. If that happens, this new lower amount becomes the legal base from which the Governor and General Assembly must prepare their budgets.
Should the March REC estimate come in lower than December, Governor Branstad would have 14 days to submit to the Legislature a revised set of budget recommendations using that lower estimate.
View the Iowa Legislative Bill Tracker.
A couple of unrelated issues that have the possibility of causing some controversy moved forward in one or the other Chamber this week.
SCHOOL START DATE: This issue was given new life when the Branstad Administration took action to actually enforce Iowa’s current law that prohibits schools from starting before September, unless they receive a waiver from the Department of Education (DOE). Past practice by the DOE had allowed a near “blanket approval” to any waiver request and this had the effect of making the law virtually toothless. However, with the DOE now actually giving those waiver requests more scrutiny, this debate has moved to the Iowa Legislature.
This week the Iowa Senate passed SF 227, a bill that would eliminate any school start date restrictions from the Iowa Code and give local school districts complete autonomy regarding the date classes begin. It passed on a 32-17 vote and moves to the Iowa House. However, the House is unlikely to follow suit and will likely have its own compromise legislation designed to balance the needs of families, Iowa’s tourism industry, and students regarding this matter.
LEGALIZE FIREARM SUPPRESSORS: The Iowa House took action this week that would allow Iowans to possess and use firearm suppressors. Better known as “silencers”, HF 527 eliminates the current restriction in Iowa law that prohibits suppressors and makes it legal to own such devices. HF 527 passed the House on a 75-24 vote and faces an uncertain future in the Iowa Senate.
Efforts on Behalf of Community Bankers of Iowa
No client-specific activity this week.