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Traditionally, voting on the department budget bills signals the end of the legislative session. Though the budget process lasts through much of the session, movement of these bills through committee is a sign the session is coming to a close. Budget bills have begun moving this week in the Senate appropriation committee.
This is a challenging budget year. The difference between our current spending for ongoing programs and our ongoing revenues for the upcoming budget is only $180.9 million. Therefore, we have just over $180 million in new revenues. Our built-in and anticipated additional increased expenditures for FY16 total $487 million. Our largest built-in expenditure is Medicaid which will requires an additional $206 million to fund in 2016. None of this includes any money for collectively bargained salaries, which by law have to be funded.
While we do not have a specific dollar amount to fund the collectively bargained salaries, we believe that amount will be in excess of $100 million. Regardless of how budget negotiations settle out, including a final decision on K-12 education funding, it appears that there will be a budget shortfall for FY16.
As we transition from winter to spring, many Iowans are excited about getting outside. The arrival of spring and warmer temperatures means exercise enthusiasts such as walkers, runner and bicyclists have taken to Iowa’s streets. While Iowa motorists will keep an eye on the exercise enthusiasts along Iowa roadways, this time of year means they must also keep a watchful eye with the start of construction season. Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) workers will be rebuilding or improving our roadways, fixing bridges and maintaining aging pavement that has been riddled with potholes from Iowa’s rough winter weather. Through construction season the Iowa DOT, as well as county and city crews will have a countless number of ongoing projects across the state. While driving through construction zones, motorists must obey posted speed limits and other signs in the work area. Drivers should also be aware that traffic fines for moving violations are at least double in those work zones.
The DOT maintains a variety of ways to track road construction across the state. On its website, www.511ia.org there is a plethora of information regarding roads, construction site locations, and the pace at which traffic around those sites is moving. If drivers need more information they can call 511 or 1-800-288-1047. Motorists also can sign up for Twitter and mobile phone updates.
The fireworks bill had to go through the ways and means committee, meaning it made it through the funnel and still can be debated this session. The bill originally went through the state government committee. A Des Moines Register poll in February showed 54 percent of Iowans favored legalizing fireworks.
Iowa's non-partisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) estimates first-year sales for retail fireworks would total over $18 million, with first-year revenue from state and local sales taxes estimated at more than $1.2 million. Forty-two other states in the country already allow some or all fireworks.
Avian influenza is becoming a great concern in Iowa. Two weeks ago a turkey farm in northwest Iowa became exposed to the disease, affecting 27,000 turkeys. And last week a large commercial egg-laying facility in Osceola County became infected. This facility has 3.8 million laying hens, and is one of the largest such facilities in Iowa. Iowa has 50 million hens and supplies 1 of every 5 eggs consumed in the United States, so this is a major concern to Iowa’s poultry farmers.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture is still in the process of identifying the exact source, but because all the outbreaks are in the Mississippi migratory flyways, the consensus is that the infections are coming from the droppings of migrating wild birds.
The virus does not pose a danger to humans, and no food supplies are in jeopardy of contamination. However this could have a negative influence on grain prices, and exports of poultry products to foreign trading partners could be affected. The state veterinarian and the USDA are working hard to prevent the spread of the disease, and hopefully the impact will be minimal to the state.
Senator Ken Rozenboom
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