DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad offered a budget proposal Tuesday that includes a tax break for veterans, a tuition freeze for college students and incentives to encourage Internet expansion in rural Iowa, a more modest list of priorities one year after he collaborated with lawmakers to enact sweeping changes.
Branstad’s roughly $7 billion spending plan also includes proposals to halt school bullying and increase funding for apprenticeship job training programs. He discussed those goals in his annual “Condition of the State” speech before a joint session of the Legislature.
In his remarks, Branstad — who is expected to run for a sixth term this year— repeatedly used the phrase “Iowa is working.” At times, the speech sounded like a campaign pitch.
“Iowa is working. The Iowa dream is here to be realized. But I believe we can — and we must — dream even bigger,” Branstad said.
Last year, Branstad worked with lawmakers in the politically divided Legislature on a property tax cut, new education spending and an expansion of low-income health care.
The state is projecting a budget surplus of nearly $900 million. But Branstad has said that money is mostly needed to pay for the policies approved in 2013 over the next few years. The budget plan includes $120 million to provide funding to local governments to make up for some of the lost property tax revenue. It also contains $54 million for the education policy changes.
This year is scheduled be a shorter session and is an election year for many lawmakers, meaning less activity is expected. Branstad has focused on policies with a good chance of bipartisan support.
The budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 represents about an 8 percent increase in general fund spending, compared with the current fiscal year. In addition, there is some spending allocated from other state funds.