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Catching Up: Context for 2012 Budget Decisions in Iowa

Read the report — 12-page PDF
Download this news release — 1-page PDF

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Feb. 7, 2012) — The state of Iowa has a lot of catching up to do as lawmakers consider their choices for the Fiscal 2013 budget.

“Last year, lawmakers crafted a portion of the 2013 budget, but they left important work undone. That work includes making up for declines in past years," said Andrew Cannon, author of a new report for the Iowa Fiscal Partnership. The report is available at

The report by Cannon, a research associate for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project, examines the current-year budget, proposals by Governor Branstad, in the context of recent years.

For example, the report shows higher education funding lags state support from earlier in the decade, both for community colleges and state universities. Community college funding this year is $16.5 million behind the 2009 appropriation; the Regents institutions receive 3.5 percent less than they did a year ago.

“At a time of growing enrollment, Iowa's community colleges are doing $11 million — or about 7 percent — better in this year's budget than the year before,” Cannon said. “And the Governor's proposal would boost that further. But that needs to be balanced against the fact that the increase does not keep community college funding as high as it was in 2008 and 2009.

“Likewise, the Governor's proposal would improve funding next year for the Regents universities after a decline this year, but Regents funding would remain below 2010 levels. This continues the long, downward trend of state funding to Iowa’s public universities, which is down nearly 21 percent, even before adjusting for inflation.”

Cannon concludes that funding for critical services overall is improving in Iowa, but in many cases has not caught up with past state support.

“Thanks to rebounding and stabilizing state revenues, many of these programs are funded in FY12 at levels higher than the previous two fiscal years, when Iowa revenues sagged as a result of the recession and both across-the-board and targeted cuts were made to the state budget,” he wrote.

“Lawmakers managed to fund public services, systems and structures in FY12 largely at or above FY11 level, while at the same time minimizing reliance on temporary or one-time funding sources. This trend continues in the Governor’s recommended budget for FY13, but it certainly does not get the budget back to pre-recession levels nor make any adjustments for the effects of inflation over these years.”

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership is a joint public policy analysis initiative of two nonpartisan, Iowa-based organizations, the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City and the Child & Family Policy Center in Des Moines.

A joint effort of the Iowa Policy Project and the Child & Family Policy Center (logos).