The Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill increasing appropriations for administrative purposes for fiscal year 2022.
The bill also appropriates $100 million in broadband grants for the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Fund.
The bill, HF867, appropriates $149.6 million from the general fund and $58.4 million from other funds for fiscal year 2022. That would be an increase of $74.6 million from the general fund and an increase of $145,000 from the other funds. It provides for 1,157.7 full-time equivalent positions for fiscal year 2022, which would be a decrease of 15.3 full-time positions.
Since fiscal year 2021, funding increases beyond the broadband grant appropriations include an additional $221,000 for the Department of Administrative Services; $43,000 for Terrace Hill operations; $52,000 for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board; and $132,000 and 2.9 full-time positions for the Department of Inspections and Appeals Health Facilities Division.
A $250,000 increase for the Secretary of State restores administration and elections funding to the fiscal year 2020 level, legislative notes on the bill said. There would be 18.2 fewer FTE positions in the Department of Administrative Services.
The Terrace Hill appropriation increases aim “to close a budget shortfall” for maintenance of buildings and grounds at the governor’s residence.
Under the bill, the Secretary of State would no longer be required to charge $3 for a copy of a certificate with a seal, $2 for a certified copy of the federal census, and the $25 fee per day of sales for issuance of a transient merchant’s license.
It also proposes a contingent appropriation of $75,000 and one full-time equivalent position as an insurance compliance analyst from the Commerce Revolving Fund to investigate any reported financial exploitation of eligible adults. This portion of the bill would depend on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision on respective bill HF839, which the Iowa House and Senate have both passed.
Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, and Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, proposed amendments to the bill, which Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, ruled were not germane to the bill.
Wahls’ amendment, S-3196, would have established a commission to award the broadband grants and require it to also consider the applicant’s ability to complete the proposed project “in a timely manner” and within the budget it proposes, as well as the rate it would charge broadband service customers in the area.
Celsi’s amendment would have mandated that the state departments would reimburse the auditor of state for “performing all audits or examinations of the state departments or agencies, or funds received by a department or agency” and “for the cost of the review and any subsequent assistance” the auditor of state provides rather than solely certain ones and the review. The auditor would also annually develop rules for the hourly billing rates for auditing services.
“Auditor [Rob] Sand came to our admin and reg meeting before we went home last March and talked to us about this idea,” Celsi said. “And it would basically put more accountability into state department audits because often there are follow-up steps, and that’s where the auditor’s office incurs added expenses that were not planned on so it would also hold the state departments a little bit more accountable for their auditing process and make it so that they would keep the costs down.”
Wahls said he was “incredibly disappointed” in the ruling on Celsi’s amendment since he believed it was germane and “a simple fix” that would save taxpayers “tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars a year.”
“Mr. President, we absolutely have to get this fixed,” Wahls said. “Every single month that we are ignoring this problem that our auditor has been warning about for years is more fines that we are paying to the federal government that an easy fix could have been done right here today, and instead that was made invalid for a vote by using a procedural maneuver.”
This article was originally posted on Iowa Senate approves 2022 budget increases for administration and regulation