In a flurry of budget activity recently, the House moved forward on six of the major appropriations bills. In taking these actions, the House maintained its commitment to fund state government within the amount of ongoing revenue.
The House passed the FY 14 Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) appropriations bill. House File 638 spends a portion of the state’s gaming revenue on a variety of infrastructure projects. This year’s RIIF bill includes increases in funding for lake dredging and water quality projects, a new emphasis on performing routine, deferred, and major maintenance of state facilities, and new construction at the three Regents institutions. HF 638 now awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Action was also taken on the Agriculture and Natural Resources budget (SF 435) and the Justice Systems budget (SF 447). Each of these bills provide significant funding enhancements. In Senate File 435, operating increases were provided to the Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The bill also includes $42 million in funding through the Environment First Fund.
The Justice Systems budget made a number of changes in funding levels within the Department of Corrections, reflecting the impending shifting of populations as the new facilities in Fort Madison and Mitchellville start to come online. Funding for the Department of Public Safety and Public Defense was set at the level proposed by the governor. Both SF 435 and SF 447 await further action by the Senate.
Two bills that started in the House were sent to conference committee. Amendments by the Senate to the Administration and Regulation budget (HF 603) and the FY 14 Education budget (HF 604) were rejected by the House as the each spent significantly more than the House budget targets. Meetings of these conference committees are beginning. Last week, the Economic Development appropriations bill (SF 430) was also sent to conference.
One major sign of progress was resolution on what level of funding is provided in this year’s budget bills for FY 2015. Like two years ago, the second year of the budget is funded at 50 percent of the FY 14 level. A few categories, like school aid, Medicaid, and property tax credits, will be funded at a higher level. This was also done two years ago.
The setting of the FY 15 funding level allowed the House to complete its work on the Transportation appropriations bill for the next two years, HF 602. The Senate is expected to send the bill to the governor soon.
Rep. Joel Fry
House District 27