Governor's budget includes cuts this year and next

Gov. Kim Reynolds' budget recommendations, released Jan. 9 in conjunction with her Condition of the State address, would take back $5.1 million in state support from the regents schools in the current budget year. Leaders at the state Board of Regents said the University of Northern Iowa and two special schools, serving PK-12 students with sight and hearing impairments, would not be subject to midyear cuts. Iowa State and the University of Iowa would share most of any reduction.

Reynolds' proposed $5.1 million cut to the regents enterprise is the highest among $27.1 million in proposed cuts to this year's state general fund budget. Data in the governor's budget indicates that 54 percent of 42,521 state employees (October 2017) work within the regents system.

Legislators receive the governor's budget recommendations but are not required to adopt them. The 2018 session opened Jan. 8, with adjournment scheduled for April 17 (reimbursed expenses for legislators end that day).

In a Jan. 9 message to campus leaders, President Wendy Wintersteen noted that the budget process is just beginning.

"We will continue to work with the Board of Regents to advocate strongly for adequate state resources," she wrote. "While we understand the challenges of the state's fiscal situation, we will urge the governor and the General Assembly to prioritize higher education."

Next year

Reynolds' budget recommendations for the year that begins July 1 don't include the three universities' request for $12 million in new funding for resident undergraduate financial aid. Iowa State's portion would be $5 million. Her recommendations add about $7.4 million to state support for the regent enterprise in FY19, most of which is unassigned. Proposed across-the-board 1 percent cuts to appropriations for Iowa State, University of Iowa, the board office and Iowa Public Radio to make permanent this year's $5.1 million reduction would reduce the net gain to about $2.3 million.

Reynolds' proposed FY19 general university appropriation for Iowa State, $170.9 million, is about $13.5 million less than what Iowa State received just 18 months ago, on July 1, 2016.

Building funds

Reynolds' FY19 budget recommendations do include capital appropriations pledged by previous Legislatures for in-process Iowa State projects. They include:

  • $4 million to complete the Bessey Hall addition and the Advanced Teaching and Research Building (for a total of $50 million in state support over four years).
  • $10 million for construction of the Student Innovation Center (the third of six years of state support totaling $40 million).

The governor's budget includes no state funding in FY19 for Iowa State's top building request, replacement of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. But Reynolds includes $20 million per year in fiscal years 2020-24 for it. The university seeks a total of $100 million in state funding over multiple years for the estimated $124 million facility.

In her address to lawmakers, Reynolds' only mention of higher education funding was a new completion grant, one component of her "Future Iowa Ready" program, that would help Iowans whose efforts to complete a four-year degree stalled out.