Governor’s mid-year cuts hit human services, higher education, public safety

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The Department of Human Services, state universities, and Department of Corrections would have to absorb large mid-year spending cuts under recommendations Governor Kim Reynolds released this week. The governor’s focus is strikingly similar to cuts her predecessor Terry Branstad proposed and Republican lawmakers approved in early 2017. For a second straight year, state legislators must pass a “deappropriations” bill to keep the budget balanced. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency estimated last month that state revenues will be about $37 million short of planned expenditures during fiscal year 2018, which ends on June 30. The governor’s draft budget document for fiscal year 2019 recommends current-year spending cuts totaling more than $27 million. The cuts would have been deeper, but the state expects an additional $11.2 million in current-year revenue due to the federal tax reform Congress approved in December (see page 63). Reynolds proposes pulling most of the money from three areas: • Human services–$10 million from Medicaid and $3.3 million from the rest of the Iowa Department of Human Services budget. Department spokesperson Matt Highland told me, “The $10 million adjustment to the medical assistance budget reflects a trend downward in estimated need.” He further explained, “The additional $3.3 million is largely the result of nominal surpluses due to lower caseloads and maximizing the use of available federal block grant funds.” • Higher education–$5.1 million from the Board of Regents, which oversees the state universities, and $1.8 million from community colleges. Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun said in a statement, “Any reduction is challenging, but the Board recognizes the current fiscal situation the state is facing. We will work with our institutions to make any required FY18 reductions in ways that have as little impact on students as possible.” On behalf of the board, Braun expressed appreciation

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