Senate includes Toledo home money in HHS budget bill

House version excludes specific funding

The State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

DES MOINES — The politically divided Iowa Senate voted Monday to re-establish a 20-bed state-run facility to provide treatment and educational services for troubled teenagers previously served at the Iowa Juvenile Home before the Toledo center was closed in January.

The proposed facility, with enhanced accountability measures and state-of-the-art treatment programs for female youth adjudicated delinquent, was included in a $1.858 billion budget bill that would fund human services, public health and other programs for the 2015 fiscal year that begins July 1.

“There are girls in this state who have no other place to go and if we do not provide this kind of treatment system for them, we would be delinquent,” said Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, co-chair of the Legislature’s Health & Human Services budget subcommittee and floor manager of the bill, which passed on a 26-22 party-line vote.

The future of the Toledo home and services for delinquent girls is the main difference between the Senate, where Democrats hold a 26-24 edge, and the 53-47 GOP-led House on a major piece of the nearly $7 billion fiscal 2015 budget. The bill now goes back to the House for consideration.

The health and human services spending piece represents a 6.1 percent increase over current funding, but much of the $107 million jump is to cover a federal Medicaid reimbursement change that represents an $87 million hit to the state general fund budget.

The House-passed version did not include any funds for re-establishing the Iowa Juvenile Home but appropriated $5.1 million for placing girls classified as children in need of assistance (CINA) with private providers and spending $780,000 to maintain the Toledo property. Senators earmarked $3.9 million to reopen the facility and operate 20 beds for delinquent girls, $1.1 million to provide after-care services and $2 million for CINA placements with private providers.

Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, said he opposed the Senate version because it under-funded projected Medicaid spending in fiscal 2015 by at least $11 million. “To me, that’s just not sound budgeting to purposefully underfund an entitlement,” Garrett said.

Hatch said the difference with the House on that point is a small piece given that the projections are on a piece of the budget that tops $1.4 billion as the state’s share of the Medicaid program costs. He said the issue likely would be on the table if the measure moves to a House-Senate conference committee.

The budget measure proposes to delay by one year the Medicaid “claw-back” for counties under the regionalized approach to Mental Health and Disability Services provisions and to not allow implementation until MHDS core and core plus services are fully funded as outlined in approved regional management plans.

The bill also provides $7.5 million to reduce the waiting list for Medicaid waiver services offered to vulnerable populations and an additional $1.2 million to improve services for Iowa seniors, including reversing Branstad’s veto of two additional long-term care ombudsmen to assist seniors in nursing facilities.

In other action Monday, senators voted 48-0 to approve a revamp of the cultural affairs tax credit program that provides $45 million for historic preservation, cultural and entertainment districts that qualify. The bill takes effect July 1 but applies to project agreements entered into on or after that date.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said the amended version of the bill will require that qualifying projects be “shovel ready” with approved financing and determined by a point system rather than a lottery selection process. The bill allows unclaimed credits to be awarded to different projects.

The state Department of Revenue’s most recent Contingent Liabilities Report projected that fiscal tax credit redemptions under the program will total $37.7 million in fiscal 2014 and increase to $44 million in fiscal 2018.

Today is a milestone day for the Legislature. The arrival of the 2014 session’s 100th calendar day means lawmakers’ daily expense money ($144 for those living outside of Polk County) runs out, which traditionally has been viewed as a harbinger that adjournment may be nearing.

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