DES MOINES, Iowa — Few lawmakers were at the Iowa Statehouse on Wednesday to pass budget bills through committee.
Multiple proposed budgets were moved out of the Senate appropriations committee to the Senate debate calendar. Among those budgets passed were education, health & human services, economic development, and infrastructure.
All of the budgets have been passed through the House chamber; while the Senate just moved the majority of their budgets to the Senate debate floor on Wednesday.
Some of the budgets that the House has already passed will be agreed on by the Senate; while others are still at the negotiation table. The education budget was passed through the committee, but there are still conversations going on in private between House and Senate Republicans. The House had already passed their version through, with language in the bill about bonuses for school staff.
“As far as the bonuses, I know all of the local school districts across the state are sitting on a lot of COVID money,” said State Senator Chris Cournoyer, (R) from LeClaire. “Many of those districts did utilize those funds to create bonuses for the other employees that did not receive the teacher bonus from the Governor. In fact, some teachers got two bonuses. That is another part of the bill that we are continuing to discuss.”
Senator Cournoyer did not make it clear if those bonuses would stay when the final budget is passed, but said those are still under consideration. Another aspect that is still being worked out is state funding for the Iowa Board of Regents. In the House version, there is no increase in state funding for state universities; but the Senate wants to include that.
“I can tell you that I was extremely disappointed that the House’s recommendation was zero dollars,” said Senator Cournoyer. “Last year the Senate had $8.2 million increase for the Regents and I intend to make sure there is an increase for them as well again.”
Cournoyer was hopeful that it could be added to the ongoing discussions with House Republicans. According to the Senator, throughout this week Republicans have met to iron out the differences in their education budgets.
There was frustration voiced by Democrat State Senators about these budget decisions being made behind closed doors without public input.
“You know a reason we have those subcommittee meetings is not for the lobby, it is for us, to learn what is going on and I think we missed out on an opportunity with this,” said State Senator Amanda Ragan, (D) from Mason City, referencing the Health & Human Services budget. “We’ll hopefully get to see that budget before we get to vote on that. It is unfortunate that we are so in the dark on that.”
The Senate appropriations committee adjourned Wednesday after passing 10 budget bills along. Now lawmakers will wait on an agreement between Republicans on the state budget before voting them through the Senate chamber.