Branstad proposes budget cuts within Iowa higher education


Lani Tons/Iowa State Daily

Gov. Branstad attended the final Iowa State basketball game at Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 29. ISU won 58-50 against Oklahoma State.

Danielle Gehr and Chris Anderson

Gov. Terry Branstad announced that Iowa’s higher education will see budget cuts of $34 million — $25.5 million from the Board of Regents and $8.7 million from Iowa community colleges, according to the Des Moines Register.

Branstad gave the 2017 Condition of the State address Tuesday, and the regents’ budget was announced to be $587 million, $37 million short of what the board had previously requested.

The breakdown of the budget for higher education will be a 40-40-20 split among the two larger universities, Iowa State and the University of Iowa, as well as the smaller University of Northern Iowa, as reported by the Des Moines Register.

The Board of Regents responded to Branstad’s budget recommendation. The board “appreciates Gov. Branstad’s and Lt. Gov. Reynolds’ continued support for higher education” despite the cuts being made.

The Board of Regents also said it understands the constraints that Iowa faces and hopes to “make the required reductions in a way that has the least effect on students.”

Education at the K-12 level was exempt from these budget cuts and will see an increase of $78.8 million for fiscal year 2018 and $63.5 for fiscal year 2019.

There will not be any across-the-board cuts nor any reductions in property tax credit. The total amount of cuts result in $110 million in savings for Iowa taxpayers.

The two-year budget fits within the five-year budget projections and is once again balanced and stable, according to a news release on

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, praised the governor for presenting his budget plan early and helping house Republicans get to work on resolving the current state budget.

“House Republicans appreciate the governor’s vision to grow good jobs and careers,” Upmeyer said. “We also share the governor’s commitment to making education a priority.”

Republicans performed beyond what they were expected to in the 2016 election and now control both houses of Iowa Legislature as well as the governorship.

Iowa House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, issued a statement in opposition to the budget proposal.

“The blame for the current budget mess rests squarely on the shoulders of Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders,” Smith said. “Their reckless policies and massive out-of-state corporate tax giveaways have left the state with a $113 million budgets shortfall.”

Smith criticized Republicans for failing to create jobs, increase family incomes and make Iowa schools the best in the nation.

The Democrats’ plan includes making K-12 their top priority, keeping higher education affordable and raising the minimum wage, Smith said.

The minority leader did not lay out how he hopes to combat the proposal, nor did he comment on the proposed budget cuts to Iowa universities.

Student Government Sen. Cody Woodruff, freshman in political science, expressed his disappointment with the proposed budget cuts.

“I’m pretty devastated about it,” Woodruff said. “We’ve already had the tuition increases — 2 percent for residents, 3 percent for non-residents — so this is just a slap in the face on top of that.”

Woodruff talked about the culture he’s seen among students regarding tuition raises as well as the culture among Iowans regarding taxes and tuition.

“I think Iowa Legislature needs to look at certain tax increases for businesses and those who are wealthier,” Woodruff said. 

Woodruff, who intends to live in Iowa after graduating, said he would not mind a small tax increase if it meant better education and lower tuition.

“I would be happy to pay that burden, and a lot of people are too,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff also expressed support for an end on corporate property tax cuts, which he believes is what got the state into this situation.

This is expected to be Branstad’s last Condition of the State Address. Branstad was recently nominated to the role of ambassador to China by President-elect Donald Trump and is expected to be confirmed to the position.

After Branstad’s appointment, Reynolds will be sworn in as the first woman governor of Iowa.

Iowa State University Relations has not yet commented on the proposed budget cuts.