Reynolds hopes to lessen budget cut disruptions

Talks ongoing with House, Senate over how much to cut

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds winks at a member of the audience after delivering her Condition of the State address Jan. 9 to a joint assembly of the of state legislature at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds winks at a member of the audience after delivering her Condition of the State address Jan. 9 to a joint assembly of the of state legislature at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds held out hope Monday that she and GOP legislators could avoid some of the potential disruptions that would be caused by up to $52 million in spending cuts and adjustments in a Senate plan as they negotiate how best to erase a projected budget shortfall by June 30.

“I put forward a budget that balances the needs of Iowans and our state agencies with as little disruption as possible,” the governor told reporters during her weekly news conference.

Statehouse Republicans continued closed-door discussions Monday after majority Senate Republicans last week proposed $52 million in spending cuts — more than Reynolds had suggested — for the current fiscal year that hit higher education, the courts and correctional facilities the hardest as lawmakers work to erase a $37 million budget imbalance.

House Republicans have yet to put forth a de-appropriation proposal, but Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he did not expect their plan would seek to cut as deeply as the Senate GOP approach.

“I would say that if the Senate were to send us that bill today I think there would be adjustments made on the House side,” Grassley said in an interview, indicating those adjustments like would lessening the spending reductions included in the bill that clear the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

Overall, the Senate GOP plan would cut spending by $52 million and scoop $7 million in unobligated economic growth funds, while supplementing nearly $2 million in utility and indigent defense money and leaving untouched any state benefits from the federal tax cuts.

The midyear adjustments would not directly impact K-12 schools, Medicaid or public safety programs but would impact other budget areas in an effort to enable the state to end the year June 30 with a $35 million cushion in a $7.2 billion budget, said Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Schneider said talks were ongoing and he did not expect the Senate bill to come up for floor debate before compromise language was reached with House Republicans and the governor, probably some time this week.

“We’ll continue to work through it and we’ll do that with both the House and the Senate and hopefully we’ll get to a responsible place,” the governor told reporters Monday. “It’s a waste of time to speculate on ‘what ifs’ because I’m focused on really getting to consensus and getting it to the place where I believe we can be respectful of everybody and with as little of disruption as possible.”

In her budget proposal, Reynolds recommended paring back current-year funding by $34.7 million through a mix of $19.4 million in selective cuts, and along with other adjustments, to erase a projected shortfall created by state revenues growing at a slower rate than projected. 

Iowa court officials have warned that the proposed $4.83 million cut to the judicial branch under the Senate GOP plan likely would leave “no other choice than to close courthouses and eliminate personnel branch-wide.”

State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio projected more than 30 county clerk operations would be closed indefinitely and proportionately over eight districts and the caseload shifted to other offices.

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