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Iowa's Priorities and Iowa's Pocketbook

Commitment in Question with Iowa Education, Water Funding
IFP News Release
Finally, a Step Forward: Higher Education Still Suffers from Years of Steps Backward in Funding
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Drops in the Drops in the Bucket: Even Rare Boosts in Water Funding Evaporate with Inflation
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (June 26, 2012) — Iowa lawmakers took few strides in 2012 toward catching up on long-missed funding commitments to priority Iowa issues in higher education and water quality.

“As we prepare for the start of a new fiscal year on Sunday, it's easy to see that Iowa is starting out way behind on these issues,” said David Osterberg, executive director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project, which produced a budget recap on higher-education and water-quality funding for the Iowa Fiscal Partnership (IFP).

“All Iowa lawmakers talk about the importance of education, and Iowa voters in 2010 passed a constitutional amendment that represents voters' interest in more stable funding for water, air and land protection. This analysis shows we, as a state, are not putting our pocketbooks behind that commitment.”

The reports today show that Iowa is continuing trends, illustrated in reports by IPP staff during the session, that showed Iowa's funding choices are not keeping pace with higher costs, and in the case of higher education especially, pushing those costs off onto students and their families.

IPP Research Associate Andrew Cannon, author of previous reports on Regents and community college funding and Iowa tuition assistance programs, said the 2013 budget improved funding in all three areas. At the same time, funding in each area is below the 2009 high-water mark, and down even further when considering inflation.

“It is noteworthy and laudable to see lawmakers boost funding for higher education compared with the current year, but we can’t avoid a simple fact: We’re still way behind, and it's mainly because we didn't keep up when the economy was in recovery,” Cannon said. “For the Regents alone, funding is down nearly 40 percent from FY2000 when you consider inflation. That's the real decrease.”

IPP Research Associate Will Hoyer, lead author on a March report about water-quality funding in several programs, took a fresh look at the end of the session.

“Even where we could see an increase in dollars from 2012 to 2013, the increase isn't keeping pace with the increase in costs of providing the services,” Hoyer said.

For example, he noted, the Soil Conservation Cost Share program has fluctuated over the last decade, dropping from $10.6 million in FY02 to as low as $1.1 million in FY11 in inflation-adjusted dollars, to $6.3 million in the year ending this week.

“That program is going up to $6.7 million in the new budget, but the comparison over the years shows we've lost ground,” Hoyer said.

“Over time, the slow erosion in the purchasing power of these programs is likely to contribute to deteriorating Iowa water quality, if it has not already done so.”

The reports are available at www.iowafiscal.org, the website of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

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

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