Iowans raise concerns over proposed budget cuts during public hearing

Iowans packed a room for a public hearing over budget bills Monday. (Photo: Steffi Lee)

Iowans filled the statehouse for a two-hour public hearing over the proposed budget that would make many cuts to higher education, victims' services and research facilities like the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, with many pleading with lawmakers to rethink their decisions.

Marty Hathaway, an AFSCME retiree who used to work within the state's prisons, worries cuts to the Iowa Department of Corrections will hurt current employees and make environments more dangerous.

"I challenge any legislator who supports cutting an additional $2.1 million from the Iowa Department of Corrections to spend one day walking the cellhouses of Iowa's prisons," Hathaway said during the hearing.

Others spoke against the cuts that would affect victims' services in Iowa.

"How are we to decide which 10 year old rape victim, which 86 year old domestic violence victim or which homeless mother of three deserves services?" Kacey Barrow-Miner with the Crisis Intervention and Advocacy Center asked.

Hira Mustafa, who attends the University of Iowa and serves on student government, says more cuts to the state's public universities will lead to stories of students struggling to make ends meet while trying to receive a good education.

"Many of my residents and friends have taken out student loans to pay for college and they have made increasing sacrifices in order to make rent payments and have often gone without meals -- being forced to choose between broccoli and textbooks," she said.

Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, pleaded with lawmakers to not cut all funding for Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

"It highly prioritizes work that can make a real difference in the field," he said.

GOP lawmakers have crafted a budget that would spend around $3 million to form and fund a new state-run family planning program. Funding wouldn't go to providers like Planned Parenthood and by creating this new family planning program, the state would be walking away from federal Medicaid dollars.

Several spoke out against that move, citing potential problems in access for contraceptives and reproductive care.

Governor Terry Branstad says tough budget years calls for tough decisions.

"This is not easy," Branstad told reporters during his weekly press conference. "I want to give (the Legislature) credit. Last year, we had a reduction in March as well. The Legislature did the responsible thing and they lived within their means."

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