ARTICLE

Branstad nixes funding for schools, universities, mental health facilities

In the end, all the big deals were struck down.

(File Photo) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad address politicians of both parties before signing a property tax reform bill at Hawkeye Ready Mix in Hiawatha on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
(File Photo) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad address politicians of both parties before signing a property tax reform bill at Hawkeye Ready Mix in Hiawatha on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES -- In the end, all the big deals were struck down.

Gov. Terry Branstad on Thursday completed action on bills passed this year by the Iowa Legislature.

Using his line-item veto authority, Branstad nixed funding dedicated by state lawmakers for K-through-12 public schools, two of the state's three public universities, and to keep open two mental health institutes.

“When I took office in 2011, I proposed a two year budget with a five year projection. My budgets have been fiscally sound, predictable and sustainable for the long term,” Branstad wrote in his veto message. “The budgets I proposed are budgets that hard-working Iowa taxpayers can depend on. Long-term budgeting is not easy and requires very difficult decisions to align projected spending with revenue.”

 

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In taking action on the final 14 bills sent to him before lawmakers adjourned last month after an overtime session, Branstad said the fiscal 2016 budget he approved will spend $7.17 billion from the state's general fund in the current fiscal year that began Wednesday.

Funding for K-12 and preschool operations will total $3.087 billion, while water quality efforts will receive $33.7 million in a spending plan that operates within his administration's five-year budget projections.

K-THROUGH-12 EDUCATION

Branstad vetoed a $55.7 million allocation to the state's 338 public K-12 school districts for the 2016-2016 school year, meaning districts will receive a 1.25-percent funding increase over the previous year.

The average increase between fiscal years 2000 and 2009 was 5.1 percent; it was 1.6 percent between 2010 and 2013.

The extra $55.7 million was a compromise agreement between statehouse Republicans who wanted to stick to the 1.25-percent increase and Democrats who felt schools needed more. Reaching that agreement required a healthy share of the work during the 2015 legislative session.

In explaining his veto, Branstad chided lawmakers for not agreeing to school funding for the 2016-2017 school year as well.

“By using one-time money and not providing supplemental state aid for the second fiscal year, the legislature compounded the uncertainty that school districts faced this entire legislative session,” Branstad said.

While Branstad defended his administration's overall investment in education, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the governor's veto “makes no sense.”

“The Branstad-Reynolds Administration is deliberately undermining bipartisan efforts to boost student achievement in our K-12 schools and to make higher education affordable for students from working families,” Dvorsky said in a statement.

Iowa State Education Association president Tammy Wawro also expressed her disappointment in the veto.

“While this compromise was inadequate, we recognize it would have provided a small degree of relief to some school districts and community colleges,” Wawro said in a statement. “That the governor could not even provide this is a further illustration of his lack of commitment to public education.”

REGENTS UNIVERSITIES

The University of Iowa will get no increase in state appropriations this budget year after Branstad vetoed one-time monies included in a hotly-debated spending bill.

Branstad did approve in its entirety a bill that boosted University of Northern Iowa's base appropriations by $5.1 million and Iowa State University's base funding by $1.2 million. That bill kept UI funding at status quo levels, leaving the institution's only chance for more money this budget year up to one-time funds lawmakers approved.

Those funds would have added $2.3 million to ISU's base bump, $1.1 million to UNI's increase, and given UI an additional $2.9 million for the year.

The governor's budget could jeopardize a potential tuition freeze for resident undergraduate students in the spring. During the Board of Regents' June meeting, board President Bruce Rastetter committed to freezing tuition in the fall to give students and parents “visibility and certainty on what the cost of education would be.”

But, he said, appropriations might not be sufficient to support a year's worth of frozen tuition for a third straight year.

“That's on the governor,” Sen. Bob Dvorksy, D-Coralville, said today in response to the governor's actions. “There is no tuition freeze because of the governor.”

Dvorsky said Branstad's vetoes are “highly disappointing.”

“It would be good if we had a governor who supported the regents and K-12 schools in the state instead of making political points,” Dvorsky said. “We worked for months with the House to come up with some of this funding, and then he made vetoes of this magnitude that is off the charts.

“It's not working with the Legislature at all. It's some sort of vendetta.”

The Board of Regents had asked lawmakers to approve a new performance-based funding model that would have tied 60 percent of state appropriations to resident enrollment and could have pulled millions from UI. The board asked lawmakers to backfill UI in the funding model's first year to hold it harmless from potential losses and give it time to adjust to the new funding metrics.

But lawmakers rejected the funding model, and Rastetter has said the board will re-examine potential performance-based funding proposals before making budget requests for the next year.

MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTES

In addressing the state's human services needs, the governor signed major portions of a $1.9 billion spending package but rejected a bipartisan bid to keep open the mental health institute at Mount Pleasant and keep the Clarinda MHI operating until December when the state would look for a private company interested in purchasing the facility.

Branstad noted that Iowa's four MHIs are antiquated and costly operations that run counter to the state's effort to modernize its mental health services into a regional delivery system. He also noted that bordering states have closed MHIs in favor of a different service delivery approach.

“We can keep moving forward and serve Iowans with two mental health institutions rather than four,” Branstad said in his veto message striking the bipartisan compromise.

“Therefore, in keeping with modern best practices and the utilization of our system, it is not in the best interests of our patients, the taxpayers or the mental health system to continue operating an aging, antiquated mental health institution lacking key clinical staff, particularly a psychiatrist,” he added.

Branstad also expressed concern that it appeared the split-control Legislature had not provided enough funding to operate the state's Medicaid program for the entire 2016 fiscal year.

“Senate File 505 as passed by the Iowa Legislature gives counties the ability to increase property taxes, enlarges entitlement programs and fails to take critical steps in modernizing Iowa's mental health system,” the governor stated. “It is even more concerning to me and to the thousands of Iowans who depend on Medicaid that it appears the Iowa Legislature may have underfunded Medicaid. The budget I proposed in January 2015 fully funded Medicaid.”

Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, expressed disappointment that Branstad ignored community pleas to keep open the state institutions that provide critical services and jobs.

“In the end, the governor ignored the will of a majority of Iowans and once again took the 'my way or the highway' approach to getting things done,” Taylor said.

Vanessa Miller of the Gazette contributed.

The press release sent out by the governor is below.

Gov. Branstad takes action on 14 bills
2015 legislative action completed
(DES MOINES) – Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad today took action on 14 bills. The action taken represents the conclusion of bill action resulting from the 2015 legislative session.  The action comes before the deadline of July 6, 2015.
Budget Overview:
·         General Fund appropriations in Fiscal Year 2016 are $7.17 billion.
·         PreK-12 Funding totals $3.087 Billion in Fiscal Year 2016.
·         Water quality efforts receive $33.7 million in Fiscal Year 2016.
·         The Fiscal Year 2016 budget continues to balance in Iowa's five-year budget projections.
The following bills were signed into law in their entirety:
House File 632: an Act relating to various matters involving insurance and the insurance division of the Department of Commerce and including effective date provisions.
House File 658: an Act relating to the funding of, the operation of, and the appropriation of moneys in the college student aid commission, the Department for the Blind, the Department of Education, and the state board of regents, providing for related matters, and providing effective date and retroactive and other applicability provisions.
House File 659: an Act relating to and making appropriations to certain state departments, agencies, funds, and certain other entities, providing for regulatory authority, and other properly related matters and including effective and retroactive applicability date provisions.
Senate File 171: an Act establishing the state percent of growth and including effective date provisions
Senate File 172: an Act establishing the categorical state percent growth and including effective date provisions.
Senate File 496: an Act relating to appropriations to the judicial branch and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.
The following bills were signed into law with item vetoes:
House File 650: an Act relating to and making appropriations to state departments and agencies from the rebuild Iowa infrastructure fund and the revenue bonds capitols II fund, providing for related matters, and including effective date provisions.  – Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
House File 651: an Act relating to expenditures of moneys from the E911 emergency communications fund, other duties of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and other properly related matters. –Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
House File 666: an Act relating to state and local finances by making transfers and appropriations, providing for properly related matters, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions. – Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
View breakdown of over $3 billion being spent on Iowa schools in FY16.
Gov. Branstad's item veto message read in part:
“I am unable to approve the item designated as Section 11, in its entirety.  I recommended a two-year budget on the second day of this legislative session including an increase in supplemental state aid for both years.  Throughout the session, I encouraged the legislature to provide supplemental state aid for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade for the next two years as required by law.  By using one-time money and not providing supplemental state aid for the second fiscal year, the legislature compounded the uncertainty that school districts faced this entire legislative session. 
 
“My administration's commitment to giving Iowa students a world-class education is demonstrated by significant, targeted growth in funding for initiatives to raise achievement.  Iowa's new Teacher Leadership System is the single largest reform measure, with an investment of more than $150 million when fully phased in during the 2016-2017 school year.  With many of our best teachers serving in leadership roles, such as instructional coaches and mentors, Iowa can better support the more demanding work teachers must do today to prepare all students for a knowledge-driven economy. 
 
“Other targeted education reform measures my administration proposed for the next fiscal year at a cost of more than $18 million include: an initiative to ensure children are able to read by the end of third grade, ongoing expansion of Iowa Learning Online program to offer more course options to high school students, and the Teach Iowa Scholars Program which provides up to $20,000 to top graduates of Iowa teacher preparation programs who teach hard-to-fill subjects in Iowa schools for five years.
 
“With any budget, it is important to look at the entire picture.  For fiscal year 2016, Iowa schools will receive over $3 billion, by far the biggest item in the state budget.” 
 
[…]
 
“As the Chief Executive of this state, it is my responsibility to have a long term vision that maintains stability and predictability in our state's budget.  I made the decisions today in order to prevent across the board cuts that occurred under the previous administration.  Maintaining the fiscal health of Iowa over the long term is my top budgeting priority.” 
Senate File 497: an Act relating to appropriations to the justice system, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions. Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
Senate File 499: an Act making appropriations to the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Finance Authority, the Public Employment Relations Board, the Department of Workforce Development, the State Board of Regents and certain regents institutions, modifying programs and duties of the Economic Development Authority, providing for other properly related matters, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions. – Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
Senate File 505: an Act relating to appropriations for health and human services and veterans and including other related provisions and appropriations, and including effective date and retroactive and other applicability date provisions. – Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
Gov. Branstad's item veto message for Senate File 505 read in part:
“Senate File 505 as passed by the Iowa Legislature gives counties the ability to increase property taxes, enlarges entitlement programs and fails to take critical steps in modernizing Iowa's mental health system. It is even more concerning to me and to the thousands of Iowans who depend on Medicaid that it appears the Iowa Legislature may have underfunded Medicaid. The budget I proposed in January 2015 fully funded Medicaid. We have embarked on efforts to modernize our administration of Medicaid. It is my hope that these efforts will not only improve the quality of health care outcomes our Medicaid patients receive but also provide much needed budget predictability and stability for taxpayers who make the program possible.”
 
[…]
 
“I am unable to approve the designated portion of the item designated as Section 23, subsection 3. Today, more Iowans than ever before have access to mental health treatment. Through the bi-partisan Mental Health Redesign signed into law in 2012, Iowans are accessing care locally through mental health regions. The mental health regions are investing substantial resources into increased access to home and community based substance abuse and mental health services. In the 1800s, Iowa opened four mental health institutions. At their peak, they served more than 6,600 people on any given day combined. However, modern mental health care has come a long way and best practices rightfully no longer include the warehousing of mental health patients. In fact, the average daily bed census at the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute over the past four years is only 61 patients. In fiscal year 2014, this came at the high cost to state taxpayers of $126,791 per patient. These resources can best be used to provide better, more modern mental health services to more Iowans. Other states have already gone down this path by closing their outdated institutions and offering innovative mental healthcare options. Minnesota once operated eleven mental health institutes. Today they operate one. Wisconsin operates two. Over the past 18 years, states adjacent to Iowa have closed 13 institutes like Mount Pleasant and Clarinda (Illinois closed four state psychiatric hospitals, Minnesota closed four, Missouri closed three, and Nebraska closed two). Like Iowa, these neighboring states have modernized their mental health systems and reduced their use of institutionalization. In 2009, a Department of Human Services report and Governor Culver recommended closure of the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute. The Legislature has taken the first steps and closed the Clarinda Mental Health Institute. We can keep moving forward and serve Iowans with two mental health institutions rather than four. Therefore, in keeping with modern best practices and the utilization of our system, it is not in the best interests of our patients, the taxpayers or the mental health system to continue operating an aging, antiquated mental health institution lacking key clinical staff, particularly a psychiatrist.”
 
[…]
 
“I am unable to approve of the item designated as Section 159 in its entirety. This item calls for Iowa, after closure of the Clarinda Mental Health Institute by the Iowa Legislature, to request proposals to operate a private, specialized nursing facility on the grounds at Clarinda. As I stated above, more Iowans are receiving mental health care than ever before. And increasingly, they are receiving it locally through mental health regions throughout our state. This holds true for adult in-patient psychiatry as well as geriatric psychiatric patients. Geriatric psychiatric patients are best served in nursing facilities with special services rather than being warehoused in costly and outmoded 19th century mental health institutes. Facilities exist today to provide these services, delivering higher quality for patients at lower costs to taxpayers. The Department of Human Services recommends allowing our mental health system to continue moving forward and giving facilities the flexibility to develop their own settings for care rather than restricting them to the campus at Clarinda. In Southwest Iowa, mental health regions are on track to open residential and community crisis services as well as jail diversion services. However, I recognize the importance of the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant facilities to their communities. It is important to note that the prisons located at Mount Pleasant and Clarinda will continue in full operation. Additionally, Clarinda will continue hosting the Clarinda Youth Academy and private substance abuse services on the campus without interruption. I am committed to working with these communities to repurpose and redevelop the campuses formerly occupied by the mental health institutes. To that end, I am convening a workgroup consisting of members from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Department of Corrections (who control the campuses), and the Department of Human Services to work with communities and allow for the easiest most efficient transition of the campuses into new development and jobs.”
 
Senate File 510: an Act relating to state and local finances by making appropriations, providing for fees, providing for legal responsibilities, providing for certain employee benefits, and providing for regulatory, taxation, and properly related matters, and including penalties, and effective date and retroactive and other applicability provisions. – Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.
The following bill was vetoed in its entirety:
House File 652: an Act relating to underground storage tanks, including by establishing an underground storage tank cost share grants program and fund and making an appropriation. – Read Gov. Branstad's veto message here.

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