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Government

Senate Republicans propose status quo state budget

State Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, 2017 Iowa Legislature
State Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, 2017 Iowa Legislature
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DES MOINES — Iowa Senate Republicans are proposing a status quo $7.6 billion budget for the coming state budget year, although they say their spending plan increases by roughly $250 million because of expenses that come off the books.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, described the budget as “sustainable, responsible and conservative.”

The Senate Republicans’ budget proposal matches state spending for the current year to the dollar, but tweaks how many dollars go to the various state departments and agencies.

Because nearly $250 million in one-time expenses came off the books, Whitver said Senate Republicans were able to construct a budget plan that would boost spending for public education by $128.6 million, health care by $106 million and public safety by $14.5 million, and plans for nearly $39 million in tax relief — most of which would come from eliminating the inheritance tax.

According to their analysis, the Senate Republicans’ budget proposal amounts to 97.3 percent of expected revenues, would leave the budget with an ending balance of nearly $312 million and the state’s reserve accounts full at $783 million.

“We have been responsible, so we are in a pretty strong position,” Whitver said.

By virtue of their majorities in the respective chambers, Republicans will drive the budget-making process in the Iowa Senate and Iowa House, and their plan must be approved by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The Senate Republican budget plan spends less than the House and governor’s plans.

“While I’d like to see those numbers closer, I don’t think we’re in a position in the session that it’s something we can’t work through,” said Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford who chairs the House budget committee.

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The state’s nonpartisan revenue estimating panel will meet next week to produce updated budget numbers for the coming budget year, which begins July 1.

At its most recent quarterly meeting, in December, the panel projected nearly $7.9 billion in state revenue for the next budget year. Lawmakers are required by law to spend no more than 99 percent of that. Each of the three plans presented spend below that 99 percent threshold.

FY20 state budget spending proposals (and relation to governor’s proposal):

Gov. Kim Reynolds: $7,658,500,000

Iowa House: $7,667,975,760 (+$9,475,760)

Iowa Senate: $7,619,331,961 (-$39,168,039)

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