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Setting Supplemental State Aid responsibly

Published: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 11:36 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 5:32 p.m. CDT

This past week saw the first series of legislation debated on the House floor. 

The bills considered were mostly non-controversial with the exception of two.  House File 2194 was one of those bills.

HF 2194 is a bill designed to adjust the timing for when Supplemental State Aid (formerly known as “allowable growth”) is set. 

Specifically, HF 2194 would change the budget process to have lawmakers set Supplemental State Aid (SSA) every other year – on the odd-numbered years – for all future Iowa Legislatures.  For example, in 2015 the Legislature would set the number for FY 2016 within the first 30 days of receiving the Governor’s budget and then set the number for FY 2017 before adjourning the 2015 session.

Under current law, the Legislature is required to set the number for SSA two years out, within 30 days following the submission of the Governor’s budget.   We are now past that deadline.

In recent years there has been a movement to change this law as it hasn’t been helpful in producing positive results for the state’s fiscal health.  Over the past decade it’s become evident that setting an increase in state aid to schools two years out, with no certainty of incoming revenue the following year, is not lending itself to stable budgets. It has been a lesson learned the hard way.

Unfortunately for Iowa’s school districts, this law has resulted in past Legislatures overpromising and under delivering.  Being under immense pressure to set a number quickly, past General Assemblies committed to a figure that wasn’t sustainable.

This has resulted in either an across-the-board cut or a deliberate underfunding of education in six of the last 12 fiscal years. 

The most infamous of all was in FY 2010 when education — along with the rest of state government — suffered a 10 percent across-the-board cut, amounting to $227.2 million.

Over the last three years, House Republicans have abided by strict budgeting principles that have led to make Iowa one the best run states in the nation. 

HF 2194 is a responsible approach to setting supplemental aid that is in keeping with these principles. 

Most importantly, this legislation would allow us to provide stable funding for our schools and the rest of the state budget.

Overpromising a percentage of growth may be a great political talking point in an election year, but it makes for very poor budgeting practices when future revenues are unable to support that number.  In the end, it only hurts our students.

One final thought – bad spending habits are not cultivated when you’re broke. Bad spending habits develop when you’re flush with cash and fail to take into account the bills that are coming due.

This coming week on Friday, Feb. 21, I will host town hall forums at the Lynnville City Hall at 11 a.m. and The Coffee Cup Café (Sully) at 2 p.m.

Contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise.  You may do so either by phone at (515) 281-3221, e-mail greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov, or when visiting the Capitol.

I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback. Also, if you would like to subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter, please send a quick note via email and I’ll put you on the list.

It is truly an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature.

Until next time, God bless!

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