Government

Gov. Kim Reynolds signs spending cuts among 23 bills

Democratic Party decries 'steep' cuts under 'Reynolds budget crisis'

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledges the audience before delivering the Condition of the State Address to a joint assembly of the of state legislature at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledges the audience before delivering the Condition of the State Address to a joint assembly of the of state legislature at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds signed 23 bills into law Wednesday, including a stopgap measure intended to erase a projected general-fund shortfall and keep the state budget balanced through June 30.

Without comment, the governor approved Senate File 2117, a bill that cuts $25 million in funding to state agencies and re-purposes $10 million in uncommitted gaming revenues earmarked for economic development incentives to be deposited instead in the general fund as a “revenue enhancement.”

Under the revision, Statehouse Republicans expect to leave a projected budget cushion of $31.9 million June 30 after the cuts and adjustments.

The largest spending reduction — nearly $11 million over the next three months — will come from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, while human services will take a $4.3 million cut, the prison system will lose $3.4 million, the court system will be pared back by $1.6 million and community colleges are cut $500,000.

Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, issued a statement decrying “steep” cuts to essential programs in the areas of education, economic development, public safety and human services that he attributed to “the Reynolds budget crisis.”

“As the old adage goes: don't tell me your values, show me your budget,” Price said in a statement. “The Republican de-appropriations bill sends a very clear message that they only value tax cuts for the wealthy and don’t care about leaving working Iowans behind.

"With the Reynolds budget crisis in full bloom, this was a great opportunity to address the massive taxpayer-funded giveaways to Republican donors and special interests,” Price added. “Instead, Kim Reynolds and the Republicans chose to cut critical services for Iowans, like our colleges, courts, and mental health programs. Iowans are literally sick and tired after years of the GOP balancing the budget on their backs.”

Also among the bills getting the gubernatorial green light was a measure that awards the state’s standardized testing contract to Iowa Testing Programs at the UI — a move that overrides a yearslong process that awarded the deal to an out-of-state vendor and could trigger legal action.

Under House File 2235, UI officials will develop assessments to be taken by some 360,000 Iowa students each school year beginning July 1 — a change to the outdated Iowa Tests of Basic Skills that opponents said would invite a legal challenge and risk significant federal money.

In adopting the bill, lawmakers passed over the American Institutes of Research in Washington, D.C., which was the previous bid winner.

Another bill signed by the governor will allow home-schooled students to take online courses without enrolling in a public school or an accredited private school. Senate File 2131 seeks to open access to the state’s Iowa Learning Online program — an Iowa Department of Education initiative designed to provide high-quality teaching and learning to students receiving private instruction through home schooling or non-accredited, non-public schools in a manner that does not create costs to local districts.

Finally, Reynolds also signed House File 2383, a bill that lowers the standard for alcohol impairment in a private workplace from .04 to .02 blood alcohol content, which is the accepted federal level for truck drivers.

Employers may require alcohol testing if they have a written policy. Iowa law includes specific rules for workplace alcohol testing as well as safeguards for the employee, including up to two tests to confirm the original results.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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