DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad signed nine budget bills Thursday afternoon using his veto pen to cut millions of dollars for personnel and programs previously approve by lawmakers.
In all, the governor cut more than $144.5 million from the state’s $6.5 billion spending plan, according to Iowa Department of Management director David Roederer, Branstad’s top budget guru.
The signings effectively end the work of the 2013 legislative session as there are no additional bills the Legislature sent to the governor that have yet to be signed.
Earlier Thursday, Branstad signed into law the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, saying it will reward Iowans for taking responsibility for their own health.
Among the cuts was more than $7 million total for planning and designing buildings at the state’s three public universities — $3 million for the University of Iowa Pharmacy Building renovation, $2.5 million for the Iowa State University Biosciences Building and $1.5 million for the University of Northern Iowa’s Schindler Education Center renovation.
Branstad listed the same reasons in his transmittal letters announcing the cuts when he struck money for the three projects.
“Until strategic plans and sustainable financing are secure, it is not appropriate to spend taxpayer money designing and planning the project,” he wrote.
Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, whose district includes the University of Northern Iowa, said he was “incredibly disappointed” about the cut.
“This is the No. 1 project on (UNI’s) list,” he said. “There’s a lot of focus on education and if you’re not going to modernize the facilities you’re going to be left behind.”
He added the appropriations bill “was a bipartisan effort with a significant number of House Republicans supporting” the spending. He said the veto likely delays the project for at least a year.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, University Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter thanked the governor for the millions being funneled to regent institutions, but noted the cut for the design projects.
“We could not be happier with the Governor’s approval of this funding as it will greatly enhance the universities’ ability to serve Iowans with our world class institutions,” Rastetter said. “However, the Board is disappointed that funds necessary for the planning and design for the highest priority academic capital projects, which are central to the specific missions of each university, were not approved.”
Other key cuts contained in the legislation include:
- An $8.7 million appropriation to buy down the waiting list for medical assistance home and community-based service waivers;
- A cut of $800,000 for moving employees from the Wallace Building in Des Moines to a new location during renovations;
- A $91.3 million appropriation for the Peace Officers’ Retirement Fund which is about 61 percent funded;
- Provisions that would allow unionize state employees to “bump” non-unionized employees if layoffs occur.