With the release of Iowa House budget targets last week, the seven budget subcommittees have started to formulate their spending proposals for the next fiscal year. While members continue to refine their Fiscal Year 2020 proposals, commitments to Iowans’ top priorities are already being made. They include:
Ensuring Access to Health Care through Iowa’s Critical Access Hospitals – $1.5 million increase
Another major concern of Iowans is maintaining the state’s network of hospitals. Central to this system are the 82 critical access hospitals throughout Iowa. These hospitals, located in smaller communities across the state, provide critical, initial care in their towns and counties and are linked to a larger hospital system for more extensive care. House Republicans are proposing to restore Medicaid payment rates to these hospitals to 101 percent of costs, with a cost settlement process at the end of the year. Hospital administrators have told members that the number one thing the Legislature could do for rural health care was to restore this process, and House Republicans are making that a key priority of their FY 2020 budget by committing $1.5 million from the General Fund to this.
Committing to Future Ready Iowa – $17.7 million in FY 20
Ensuring that Iowans have the job skills needed by Iowa’s employers is one of the biggest issues facing this state. House Republicans have committed to fund implementation of the Future Ready Iowa program that was created last year. This will include $15 million for assisting community college students with the Last Dollar Scholar program and $1 million for helping those who started four-year degrees in certain fields to go back to college and finish them.
Additional Funding for Nursing Homes serving Iowans on Medicaid – $19 million increase
One of the bigger concerns Republican representatives have heard in their districts over the past few months has been over the fiscal condition of local nursing homes. With the growing number of nursing home residents whose care is covered by Medicaid, nursing homes are facing tighter operating budgets. To help ensure Iowans have access to this important level of care in their local communities, House Republicans are planning to provide an additional $19 million in General Fund dollars to Iowa’s Medicaid program to increase the daily nursing home payment rate. These funds will also help control the growth of private pay rates in nursing homes.
Protecting Iowans’ Safety - $3.85 million increase
Ensuring that Iowans live in safe communities is a big drawing card for this state. The House Republican budget will build on this by providing $3.85 million in additional funds for the Department of Public Safety in FY 2020. These commitments will allow DPS to bring on additional troopers and DCI agents in the next year.
Expanding Access to Health Care in Rural Iowa by Recruiting Additional Providers – $700,000 increase
Having trained health care providers is necessary to having functioning hospitals and nursing homes across Iowa. And to attract health care providers to rural communities sometimes requires additional steps to make this appealing to new practitioners. To help more communities attract doctors, House Republicans will be taking two steps. First, they will provide an additional $400,000 for medical residency programs and dedicating these funds to those who will practice in rural Iowa. Also, House Republicans will increase funding for the Rural Primary Loan Repayment program by $300,000. This program helps communities attract and retain newly licensed doctors.
Continuing Iowa’s Investment in Higher Education – $7 million increase
Increasing support for Iowans seeking higher education will be part of the FY 2020 budget beyond what is included in Future Ready Iowa. Increases for all three legs of Iowa’s higher education system will be part of the House Republican budget. Community Colleges will receive an additional $7 million in FY 2020 under the House Republican plan.
Improving Iowa’s Mental Health System –$5.3 million increase
There is wide, bipartisan support for investing in improvements to Iowa’s mental health system. House Republicans are committed to this and have dedicated additional resources in FY 2020 for this purpose. This includes funding the $3 million requested by the governor to help schools train their personnel to identify and work with kids having mental health issues. Also, $1.2 million is provided to expand access to the children’s mental health waiver in the Medicaid program and another $1.1 million to increase the number of assertive community treatment teams throughout Iowa.
In the next few weeks, more details on the FY 2020 budget will be made public as the budget process picks up speed.
The budget outline proposed by House Republicans represents a 0.63 percent increase in spending and spends just 97.45 percent of ongoing revenue. The plan is a responsible and conservative approach that implements responsible increases in areas that Iowans have clearly indicated are priorities, while also increasing the ending balance to $298.6 million.
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