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Editor’s Note: Since we published this piece online Feb. 14, we have learned new information about how the Iowa Legislature allocates money to the Department of Public Safety. The new information changed two of the grades.
The 2022 Iowa Legislature session is in full swing, with state agency heads meeting with lawmakers to explain their budget needs for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
But the budget process started in the fall when agencies prepare a request within guidelines set by the governor. The governor then reviews the requests, conducts public hearings and submits recommendations to the Legislature, which appropriates funds. With that as the backdrop, the Iowa Senate Democrats tweeted Jan. 28:
“@KimReynoldsIA is proposing a budget cut to the already underfunded Iowa State Patrol. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans are literally the only ones proposing to defund the police.”
Claim 1: Reynolds “is proposing a budget cut …”
When the Fact Checker wrote to Ron Parker, director of the Senate Democratic staff, he referred us to a Jan. 13 analysis the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency did of the Republican governor’s fiscal 2023 budget recommendation.
That report, on page 208, shows Reynolds’s fiscal 2023 budget recommendation for the Iowa State Patrol is $399,370 lower than the estimated fiscal 2022 budget that ends June 30.
There also are small decreases for State Fire Marshal and Division of Criminal Investigation, other agencies within the Iowa Department of Public Safety. All the cuts are described as “one-time redistribution of salary funding.”
Here’s what that means.
For fiscal 2022, the Legislature broke out appropriations for each agency within public safety, including the State Patrol.
While the Patrol’s proposed fiscal 2023 budget is $399,370 less than the previous year, that was an adjustment among public safety agencies to reflect actual spending in fiscal 2022, Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens said.
“A lot of this is just an odd way we’re funded,” Bayens said. “On paper, what you reported is accurate. But why that happened is where it gets kind of muddy and complicated.”
One reason State Patrol has surplus funds in fiscal 2022, which ends June 30, is because some troopers have taken jobs this year as special agents within the DCI, Bayens said. The responsibility for paying those employees’ salaries shifted to the DCI.
“In order to balance the budget at the end of the fiscal year, we had to move that money in part to DCI, in part to administration,” which has two new positions, Bayens said.
The $399,370 from State Patrol to DCI replaces $396,000 Bayens moved from DCI to pay for one-time equipment costs for a new cyber crime unit, created by the Iowa Legislature.
Evan Johnson, a legislative analyst with the Legislative Services Agency, confirmed that while the State Patrol got $399,370 less in fiscal 2023, it’s because the agency was appropriated a bit more than its needs required for this fiscal year.
Grade: To say Reynolds is defunding the police based on this transaction is more false than true. We give the Senate Dems a D on this claim.
Claim 2: The second point the Iowa Democrats make in the tweet is the State Patrol is “already underfunded.”
The State Patrol’s primary mission is traffic enforcement on Iowa’s highways. In 2021, the agency assisted nearly 16,000 motorists, arrested 1,325 impaired drivers and issued 76,000 speeding tickets, among other outreach, according to the agency’s Jan. 26 budget presentation at the Iowa State Capitol.
Iowa traffic deaths hit a five-year high in 2021.
The State Patrol had 296 road troopers in fiscal 2011, The Gazette reported in 2017. That number fell to 267 troopers in fiscal 2017 and now is at 226 — a 24 percent decline since 2011. Bayens said Jan. 26 the patrol was allocated 399 sworn officers — which includes road troopers and others — but the agency now has 358.
Fewer troopers means calls for service may go unanswered and troopers may not get backup in dangerous situations, patrol officials told The Gazette in 2017.
Also in 2021, the State Patrol paid $294,853 to deploy 28 officers for 15 days to the U.S. border with Mexico. Of that, $97,717 was regular wages that would have been paid even if troopers were working in Iowa.
Grade: We give the Iowa Democrats an A on the underfunding claim.
Claim 3: “Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans are literally the only ones proposing to defund the police.”
One of the frequent rallying cries during Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd was to defund the police, a move few governments have made because of the vital role law enforcement agencies play.
To say Reynolds and Iowa GOP are “literally” the only ones proposing to defund the police is almost begging for a fact check downgrade because it only takes one person to make the claim inaccurate.
While Democrats in the Iowa Legislature are not calling for reductions to law enforcement budgets, many activists and some progressive politicians have advocated for money to be diverted from police. As an example, Indira Shuemaker won a seat on the Des Moines City Council on a platform that included defunding the police.
Grade: We give this last claim a D.
With their tweet, the Senate Democrats were trying to juxtapose Reynolds’s budget proposal, which appeared to reduce the State Patrol’s budget, with GOP-led bills last year that would have penalized cities for cutting police budgets.
But saying Reynolds cut the State Patrol’s budget isn’t accurate. Bayens explained and the Legislative Services Agency verified that this loss in fiscal 2023 funding was a reallocation within the Public Safety Department based on actual spending in fiscal 2022.
The Senate Dems are right the State Patrol is underfunded.
The Senate Democrats’ tweet tried to be chatty by using “literally” in the last claim, but it makes that statement inaccurate. Averaging two Ds and an A, the tweet overall gets a C.
The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.
Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.
If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the Fact Checker team are Elijah Decious, Erin Jordan, Marissa Payne and Michaela Ramm. This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.