Governor Kim Reynolds and the Republican-controlled legislature have chosen to slash essential funding for Iowa universities, courts, human services and the prisons. Why are they refusing to consider a reasonable, common sense alternative to these painful and unnecessary cuts? The state has over $600 million dollars sitting idle, unused and available in the combined Cash Reserve Fund and the Economic Emergency Fund.
According to the Iowa Code, the purpose of this rainy day fund is to meet exactly these kinds of emergency budget shortfalls. The Iowa Code section 8.56 states: “Moneys in the cash reserve fund may be used for cash flow purposes during a fiscal year provided that any moneys so allocated are returned to the cash reserve fund by the end of that fiscal year.”
The Republicans’ decision to make cruel, reckless and unnecessary cuts with only a few months left in the fiscal year is totally irresponsible. They are forcing Iowa’s universities, the Iowa courts and human services to implement massive cuts by an arbitrary June deadline.
Reynolds failed to call a special legislative session last fall and address this ahead of this crisis. Now she is failing again by forcing Iowa agencies to make emergency budget cuts rather than allow them to utilize the rainy day fund. Rather than force these agencies to make rash unplanned cuts now, borrowing would give them a year’s breathing room to reasonably plan implementation of further cuts.
Reynolds and the Iowa Republicans forced cuts ranging from $30 million to $52 million to be made by June. That range of cuts can be easily borrowed from the $600 million rainy day fund and leave a healthy balance. Professional state leadership requires making the most appropriate choices for Iowans. Refusing to fully fund vital government agencies by using a fund established for that purpose is a not only unprofessional, it’s mean spirited.
The effected agencies starved of funds by Reynolds and the GOP legislature make it clear that Iowans will suffer unnecessarily.
The Department of Human Services is already suffering a budget crisis. They will need further reductions of $9.9 million, including a $6.6 million cut for administration and $2.2 million less for children and family services. These additional cuts will further unravel Iowa’s frayed human services safety net.
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady warned lawmakers that insufficient resources “tear at the very fabric of our operation and mission,”
“The lack of resources is approaching a crisis…Iowans are losing access to justice,” the chief justice said.
The Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun said in a statement, “As the second semester is already underway, these severe cuts for fiscal year 2018 would cause disruptions on our campuses. We will work to minimize the impact on students…As the state of Iowa is focusing on high-demand jobs, degree attainment, and the biosciences economy, cutting the public universities to this degree goes in the opposite direction of achieving these goals…The public universities are key drivers in all three of these areas and are critical to the future economic success of our state.”
“The GOP budget crisis will cause every Iowa college student and their families to pay higher tuition this fall,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. “These midyear cuts are devastating to our public universities and community colleges’ efforts to attract new Iowans and educate our next generation of skilled, productive citizens.”
Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said, “It will be devastating to UNI. Think about it: a $3.7 million cut in the current year. They won’t be able to sustain that. They’ll have to think about layoffs, cutting classes.”
The Republicans refusal to acknowledge the severity of these cuts is obvious in statements from leaders like Sen. Charles Schneider. The Republican from West Des Moines, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said Thursday he doesn’t perceive the potential impact on the regents as “so significant…When you look at the de-appropriation as a percent of their total budget, I mean it’s not so significant that we think that it should need to impact their decision on tuition.”
But Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, put the cuts in proper perspective. Hogg called the cuts “unfathomable.” “Because, remember, these midyear budget cuts are coming on top of major cuts that they’ve already experienced,” he said.
Representative John Forbes, D-Urbandale, suggested using the rainy day fund at last Saturday’s legislative forum. The public responded favorably to his suggestion.
Reynolds has a responsibility to provide reasonable alternatives to these massive GOP budget cuts. Failing to even consider borrowing from a healthy rainy day fund is the height of mismanagement.
by Rick Smith