Iowa Legislature is close to adjourning

The 2017 Legislative Session has been very busy and hectic. Issues that affect Iowa community colleges have included midyear budget cuts of $4.75 million, collective bargaining changes, Workforce Training funding and a second round of midyear budget cuts. The midyear budget cuts were required due to the reduced tax revenue that state has collected and the fact the Iowa Constitution requires a balanced budget.

While more work needs to be finalized on the overall state budget, we now have a better understanding of where the budget stands. Most of state government will see a reduction in their budget from last year.

Last week the Legislature released the overall budget targets for each of the Appropriation subcommittees. On April 11, the detailed budget amounts were released by the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill was passed out of the Joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday on a party line vote and was taken up by the House Appropriations Committee Thursday. It appears action on the appropriations bills will be fast-tracked this coming week.

The budget bill recommends an appropriation of $201,190,889 for community college state general aid in FY2018. This represents an increase of $1,650,284 over the final FY2017 appropriation of $199,540,605, which reflects the $4,750,000 in reductions sustained in January and March. This results in a net increase in SGA funding of $1,150,284 in FY 2018. While the budget has not yet been formally approved and signed by the governor, this should allow us a good road map to follow.

Funding for the workforce programs in the Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund is maintained in the bill at the FY2017 level of $40.3 million. These funds provide the means for us to provide ongoing training for existing companies and workers, as well as new companies such as Prestage Farms, as well as adult basic education and English language learner programs.

We would like to thank Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, co-chair of the Senate Education Appropriations committee for his strong support of the Iowa Community College budget during this difficult budget year. While we wish we had not faced the midyear cut, the Iowa Constitution mandates the Legislature balance its budget, so cuts unfortunately had to be made throughout state government.

We also appreciate the ongoing support of our area legislators, including Reps. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge; Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City; Rob Bacon, R-Slater; and Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake. The Iowa community colleges are very lucky to have such strong bipartisan and support, and we thank them for their hard work.

We look forward to working with our local delegation, soon to be Gov. Kim Reynolds over the interim to develop an even better budget for next year.

Jim Kersten is vice president of external affairs and government relations at Iowa Central Community College.