Branstad calls for 'difficult' budget cuts

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It won't be easy. That's what Governor Terry Branstand said at the capitol Tuesday about his plan to cut $110 million from the current budget year.

The governor was speaking to lawmakers about his two-year budget plan, during what's likely to be his last Condition of the State Address.

Branstad is pushing for the cuts as Iowa falls nearly $100 million short of expected revenue, due to a number of factors.

Branstad's proposal looks to immediately cut some major dollars, $15 million from the Department of Corrections, about $20 million from Iowa Department of Human Services and the hardest hit, higher education, $34 million from the board of regents and community colleges.

"The budget reductions I am recommending for this fiscal year are difficult," said the Republican Governor. "But they maintain funding for our mutual priorities."

The impact to the schools is uncertain, at this point.

"We understand the revenue constraints the state is facing for the current fiscal year," said President of the Board of Regents Bruce Rastetter, in a statement. "We will work with our institutions to make the required reductions in a way that has the least effect on students."

Democrats are calling the move concerning. Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg speculated a tuition increase may follow.

"We need to use education, not just for our young people, but as an economic development tool," said Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. "We shouldn't take that tool away."

The budget proposal doesn't utilize across the board cuts or furloughs and isn't looking for a reduction in property tax credits.

Branstad's address also called for a defunding of organizations that provide abortions, eliminating collective bargaining for state employee health plans, plus two year 2% increases for K-12 education.

GOP lawmakers said that last one may be tough.

"We will try and be very respectful of the things he would like us to not touch," said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake. "We're going to look for ways to make his budget right. That's our job."

Iowa House and Senate budget committees will both have to approve the budget before it can take effect.