Government

Hard-fought compromises come to quick end

Governor approves $7 billion budget after fiscal year starts

Governor Terry Branstad speaks at Joni’s Inaugural Roast and Ride in Boone on Saturday, June 6, 2015. ¬ (KC McGinnis/The Gazette)
Governor Terry Branstad speaks at Joni’s Inaugural Roast and Ride in Boone on Saturday, June 6, 2015. ¬ (KC McGinnis/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad closed the books on this year’s legislative session by taking down sections of a hard-fought compromise the Republicans who control the Iowa House and Democrats who run the Iowa Senate wrangled for more than an extra month to achieve.

In taking action Thursday 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 fiscal year that began Wednesday.

Funding for K-12 and preschool operations will total $3.087 billion — after the governor nixed a compromise one-time funding — while water quality efforts will receive $33.7 million in a balanced spending plan that Branstad says will operate within his administration’s five-year budget projections.

The state managed to avoid a government shutdown as the new fiscal year had come Wednesday without a signed budget plan.

That’s because the split-control Legislature approved a resolution keeping state functions funded and operating to ensure Branstad would have all 30 days the law allows him to pass judgment on the legislative work product. He had until Monday to complete that work, but finished it before governmental entities observe the holiday.

The legislative session convened Jan. 12 and Branstad presented his two-year spending plan a day later. But lawmakers worked the 110 days that they receive per-diem expenses and well beyond their May 1 target adjournment date to reach a hard-fought agreement on a budget plan that included $125 million in surplus funds to bolster K-12 education, supplement other government areas and pay down some state debt.

However, Branstad said he was philosophically opposed to using one-time surplus money to pay for ongoing expenses and expressed disappointment that legislators failed to abide by a state law that required them to also fund K-12 school districts in fiscal 2017 before adjourning.

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In the end, legislators passed 143 bills and resolutions during the 2015 session that they sent to the governor for his consideration before adjourning June 5.

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