DES MOINES — Republican plans to make midyear budget cuts are like the discredited medical practice of bleeding patients to cure their illnesses, a Statehouse lobbyist told lawmakers Monday.
“We have a government in crisis, and it appears that we are meeting that crisis by bleeding,” Karl Schilling said during a public hearing on Senate File 2117, which calls for cutting $33 million to $44 million from the budget for the fiscal year ending June 30.
Schilling, who was representing a state employees union and the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, was one of about 25 people who spoke at the House Appropriations Committee hearing, nearly all of them in opposition to the bill pending in the House. Senate Republicans approved it 29-21, but the House amended it to reduce the cuts to $33 million. That’s slightly less than the $34.5 million Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed.
The only provisions of the bill that had support were those that would increase federal reimbursement for emergency medical services transporting Medicaid recipients and spare the University of Northern Iowa from budget cuts. The House plan would reduce the Board of Regents appropriation by $8.1 million with the proviso that UNI’s funding not be cut.
Cuts always are tough, Jerry Foxhoven, director of the Department of Human Services, told the committee. By maximizing federal block grants and other measures, he thinks the department that serves about a third of all Iowans can make it through the budget year without cutting benefits, beds in institutions or caseworkers.
“At the level you are proposing, we can live with that,” Foxhoven said. “Much beyond that would be a challenge.”
Even the proposed level will create challenges, AFSCME Iowa President Dan Homan said. The Department of Corrections, for example, already took $5.5 million in cuts in the fiscal 2017 midyear deappropriation, its 2018 budget was cut by $2.1 million, and now it faces a $3.4 million adjustment, he said.
“Your actions here today have real-life consequences,” Homan said. “Passage of this bill will directly result in Iowans being put in harm’s way and will result in injury and a more dangerous workplace.
“As president of this union that represents these workers, this is what keeps me up at night: When will an officer be killed?” Homan said.
House leadership has not indicated when it will take up the deappropriation bill. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said Monday the House GOP doesn’t want to cut as deeply as their Senate counterparts have proposed.
“This is a FY18 budget that we all voted to support nine month ago, 10 months ago,” she said. “I don’t know why we would want to back up on that other than to make sure we are balancing the budget.”
Beyond that, if lawmakers think they’re spending too much this year, “we’ll deal with that in 2019,” Upmeyer said. “We’ll spend less.”