Two ISU centers await Branstad decisions

Completing her first legislative session as state relations officer for Iowa State, Kristin Failor called the 2017 session a difficult one for higher education. In a winter and spring of spiraling state revenue forecasts, flat state support for the fiscal year that begins July 1 turned out to be a positive occurrence; not all Iowa State programs and units were so lucky.

The Legislature adjourned on Saturday, April 22. Failor said Gov. Terry Branstad has 30 days -- or until May 22 -- to sign, veto or line-item veto bills that passed in the last three days of the legislative session. With Branstad's ambassador post confirmation hearing with the U.S. Senate scheduled for May 2, she said she doesn't anticipate any bill signings in the next week or two.

Following is a synopsis of key funding decisions made by legislators in the closing days of the session:

Operating support

  • General university appropriation: Iowa State's FY18 amount is about $172.87 million, or about $11.52 million less than the beginning FY17 appropriation. Most of the reduction is $8.99 million from this winter's mid-year cuts that were made permanent for FY18.
  • Many of Iowa State's direct appropriations (for specific programs or units) will remain at FY17 starting levels. These include education appropriations for the Agriculture Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension, livestock disease research, Veterinary Diagnostic Lab operations; as well as the broad economic development appropriation and Iowa State's portion of the Regent Innovation Fund (funded by the Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund).
  • As the legislation is written, a $101,000 direct appropriation to the Small Business Development Centers will be eliminated for FY18. Failor said this reduction will be offset with dollars from the $2.42 million economic development appropriation and ISU's Regent Innovation Fund (which total $1.05 million).
  • The direct appropriations for both the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture ($0.4 million) and the Nutrient Research Center ($1.32 million) also are scheduled to be eliminated. That same legislation would transfer to the Nutrient Research Center an estimated $1.5 million the Leopold Center receives from the Agriculture Management Account (supported by nitrogen fertilizer sale fees and pesticide registrations), essentially leaving intact the Nutrient Research Center.

Leopold Center director Mark Rasmussen said the center's third revenue stream, about $250,000 earned annually on an endowment through the ISU Foundation, isn't really enough "to keep the doors open." Potentially more damaging than the two funding source losses, Rasmussen said, is language in the bill that ends the 30-year-old center's existence.

He said the governor has several options for dealing with the language in the bill regarding the existence of and state support of the center. Until Branstad takes action, Leopold proponents are encouraged to contact the governor's office, Rasmussen said.

Building project support (previously approved)

  • Student Innovation Center ($40 million in state funding over five years, FY17-21): The schedule was tweaked. State support in FY18 will be reduced from $9 million to $6 million; the $3 million will be funded in a sixth year, FY22.
  • Biosciences projects ($50 million in state funding over three years, FY16-18): The schedule also was tweaked. State support for FY18 will be reduced from $23.5 million to $20.5 million; the remaining $3 million will be funded in a fourth year, FY19.

Building project support (new request)

  • Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory ($100 million in state funding requested over five years, FY18-22). Legislators awarded no dollars to Iowa State's top building request this year. Failor said planning for this project will be delayed but is "still on the table" for FY19 funding requests.

Funding for art in state buildings

In the final appropriations bill of the 2017 session, an annual catch-all bill, legislators struck language from Chapter 23 of the State Code that requires that one-half of 1 percent of the total cost of state construction projects be reserved for fine arts in the building. The Art in State Buildings program was launched in 1979. Failor said projects that are underway, with art budgets already set aside, would be completed.