Branstad proposes returning $20 million to Iowa regent universities


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Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday announced plans to restore $20 million in public-university funding, but some regents and legislators say it's not enough.

Regent Robert Downer said the state Board of Regents recognizes the current economic hardships and appreciates the proposal, but the funding will fall short.

"I don't think the $20 million will be sufficient enough to cover all of the elements of the regents' budget," he said.

The regents have requested a $40 million bump to cover increases in costs such as union raises, Downer said.

"If we only get the $20 million, there could be cuts in other areas, such as decreases in faculty positions, turning off heating or air conditioning in buildings at odd hours, and possible tuition increases," he said.

The state's universities aren't likely to see more support in the Iowa House, which is controlled by Republicans

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said the Legislature will release budget guidelines by the end of this week, but he doesn't expect anything significantly larger than Branstad's proposal because of the financial needs of other educational institutions within the state.

"We simply don't have the revenue to put $40 million in the regents," he said. "If they believe they're going to get $40 million, then they're living in a completely different world."

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said Branstad's proposal is a step in the right direction, but legislators need to focus on not cutting money from other important areas. One area Jacoby has worked hard to protect from cuts, for instance, is economic development.

"It's just reinstating what was already there and got taken away," he said. "We need to focus on the first Republican proposal this year to cut $10 million from economic-development funds. This potential cut would mostly affect the Oakdale Campus and the Old Capitol Centre, but we won't let it happen."

Jacoby will work with Hawkeye Caucus, a new student organization focused on lobbying state legislators. He trained interested students and alumni in lobbying techniques before the student group was established, and he said he plans to continue training this year's group for trip to the Statehouse this spring.

"[Legislators] listen to their message," he said. "It's always good to have eye-to-eye contact when discussing issues."

Hawkeye Caucus member Joelle Brown said she hopes the group's lobbying will help make professional connections with state legislators.

"Our main goal is to positively represent the University of Iowa," she said. "When we meet with legislators, we just want them to keep us in mind when making legislation and allocating funds."

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