Funding cuts hit Iowa agencies as new budget takes effect
DES MOINES — A roughly $7.2 billion state budget went into effect Saturday in Iowa. The spending plan, approved by a Republican-controlled Legislature and former Gov. Terry Branstad, addresses everything in state government from education funding to health care services. But lower-than-expected revenue meant lawmakers agreed to a range of funding cuts across state agencies. Those cuts have come into sharper focus since the legislative session was adjourned in April. Republicans say they tried to balance the budget while investing in priorities and essential government services. Here’s a look at five impacts of the new budget:
Planned Parenthood clinics
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in May it would close four of its 12 clinics in Iowa in response to a decision by GOP lawmakers to give up millions in federal Medicaid dollars to create a state-run family planning program that excludes funding to organizations that provide abortions. No state dollars pay for abortions in Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Human Services says participants will automatically be transferred to the state program, which is supposed to cover the same services as long as they are not sought at a clinic offering abortions.
More than 14,600 people visited the impacted clinics in the past three years, according to Planned Parenthood. Services provided included birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The governor’s office says the state has enough other providers to offer family planning coverage to people in rural areas.
The nine-member Board of Regents, which oversees Iowa’s three public universities, voted in June to increase tuition at the schools beginning this fall. Presidents at the three universities — Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa — say steeper-than-expected increases were the result of recent cuts by the Legislature. Lawmakers approved an education budget bill this year that reduced year-over-year state funding to the schools by about $30 million.
The board had already agreed in December to a 2 percent tuition increase for the 2017-2018 school year. Iowa students will see tuition go up an additional $216 beyond that. Increases were higher for out-of-state, graduate and professional students.
Prevent Blindness Iowa, a nonprofit organization that helps provide training on vision screenings and eye exams, will have fewer resources for work aimed at helping detect eye problems in K-12 students. Prevent Blindness Iowa is losing all of its state funding — a little more than $96,000.
Executive Director Jeanne Burmeister said Prevent Blindness Iowa, which has been around for nearly 60 years, estimates it’s reached more than 45,000 students through its trainings and screenings.
Lawmakers had originally kept funding intact for the group, but the Iowa Department of Public Health later made additional reductions.
Domestic and sexual violence
About $1.7 million was cut in funding directed toward services that assist victims of domestic and sexual violence. That’s a 26 percent cut in state spending toward such services, according to the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In the end, the total cuts between state and federal funding for the new budget year are expected to be $5.7 million.
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program, an Iowa City-based agency that typically receives some of the state money, has announced plans to close two of its five offices. Executive Director Kristie Fortmann-Doser said there will be no staff layoffs and no services will change at this point, but the reduction in locations will hurt victims who seek help by dropping into the agency’s offices.
A 24-hour statewide sexual abuse hotline administered by the Rape Victim Advocacy Program at the University of Iowa has been defunded. Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa said its online chat services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and sex trafficking has also been defunded.
Mental health workforce
The University of Iowa will stop receiving about $105,000 for a program aimed at increasing the number of psychiatrists in the state. The money was split evenly to help fund a one-year post graduate fellowship in psychiatry and offer tuition assistance to encourage students to further study psychiatry. About 240 psychiatrists are in Iowa, according to Michael Flaum, the program’s medical director. Flaum says that’s not enough, hurting access to mental health services in the state. The program will end tuition assistance and seek to find other money to help pay for the fellowship. “It’s a very small amount of money and it has a significant impact on the psychiatric workforce in the state of Iowa,” he said.
The Iowa Department of Public Health also made this reduction after lawmakers originally maintained its funding.