Governor Branstad this week submitted his revised budget for next year as required by law, and his fellow Republicans in the legislature are concerned about how little wiggle room there is in the spending plan.
Because tax receipts have faltered, Branstad reduced his 2018 spending plan by more than two percent compared to what he submitted in January, and there’s no ending balance to provide a cushion for emergencies.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says the budget has already been reduced so much it will be hard to set aside money in case revenues fall short again
“If we see underperformance we will be disappointed we didn't see a bigger cushion,” Upmeyer said. “At the same time having a bigger cushion means you're taking money out of a budget that's already seen some genuine revisions.”
The governor’s revised budget spends roughly $7.2 billion, essentially the same as this year.
That means in order to give schools a promised $40 million increase, some areas, including higher education and human services, will get less money next year than they received in the fiscal year that ends in June.
But budget-writers in the Senate say they may propose a budget that spends even less than the governor’s spending plan.
"A lot of us are trying to identify ways where we might be able to make some reductions beyond what the governor recommended, just to make sure we don't have to deappropriate next year," said Senate Appropriations Chair Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines).
“I think everybody wants to make sure we adopt a budget that is practical and not likely to see any additional cuts come in any future days ahead,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix (R-Steamboat Rock).
House and Senate leaders say they will release their spending plans soon.
“The sooner we come to consensus on some pieces of that the easier it is to move forward,” Upmeyer said. “It’s tough on everybody.”