The legislative session adjourned Sine Die on Saturday, May 5, after 114 days. 

When session started in January we asked the governor and state legislators not to balance an already tight budget on the backs of Iowa children. When all was said and done, there were a few small wins. But for the most part they did indeed hammer together a 2019 budget at the expense of children—and mortgage their futures with a tax bill that will hamstring state and family finances in years to come. 

Wins included restoration of funding for a few key children's services and steps taken to increase provider reimbursement in our Child Care Assistance program. The initial steps to establish a children’s mental health system in Iowa could also be a positive step forward, though its roll-out and funding have yet to be finalized. 

But many priorities for children were neglected or ignored altogether. Our PK-12 system received one of the smallest increases in years, vulnerable children will still struggle to get the health services they need through Medicaid, low-income youngsters remain on preschool waiting lists and many families still can’t access child care because they make just a little too much to qualify for child care assistance.

Effective oversight and accountability for the managed care organizations (MCOs) running Iowa’s Medicaid program remain elusive. Although the health and human services bill does contain some language requiring outcomes data from MCOs, such requirements are already present in their contracts, and yet problematic reporting inconsistencies persist, as DHS rarely enforces penalties. 

Below are more details on the key outcomes of session for children and families. Please keep in mind that Gov. Kim Reynolds still has 30 days from the end of session to veto appropriations bills or offer line-item vetoes. If she does veto an entire bill or portions of the bill, she is required by law to give a reason.  

Health and Human Services funding

Last year many relatively small but important services for vulnerable children were cut from this budget. This session the Legislature restored funding to some of them:

  • $156,482 for audiological services for children program
  • $23,000 for the dental services program at University of Iowa
  • $64,387 for Child Health Specialty Clinics 
  • $384,553 for the Regional Autism Assistance Program
  • $135,755 for the Metabolic Disorders Program (such as PKU)

A few programs received modest increases in funding:

  • $300,000 for childhood obesity 
  • $15,511 for Adverse Childhood Experiences

Child care

We worked very closely with United Way of Central Iowa and other groups to increase access to child care. Legislators responded by increasing the reimbursement paid to providers participating in Child Care Assistance. The way they did it is a little complicated, involving two different strategies:

  • First they agreed to increase rates for infants and toddlers to the 75th percentile of 2014 market rate for those providers participating in the Quality Rating System. Quality set-aside dollars will be used for this expansion. 
  • Lawmakers also appropriated an additional $3 million from the general fund to address low reimbursement rates for all providers whose reimbursement is at or below the 50th percentile of the 2014 market rate. Providers will see incremental rate increases starting in January 2019. For more details on this component of the increase, check out this graphic from the Legislative Services Agency.  


There were few victories this year in the education realm. Our K-12 system got a 1.1 percent school aid increase, the second lowest increase in 15 years and below the level need to keep up with inflation. Lawmakers also failed to extend the “SAVE” penny—the one-cent sales tax for school repairs, renovations, construction and security updates.

Initiatives for the youngest learners—Early Childhood Iowa, Shared Visions and Early Head Start—were funded at the same levels as last year. The Reading Research Center did receive a $345,000 increase.


This was the last bill of session, passed Saturday on a party-line vote. It is expensive—over $400 million a year by 2021—and will surely force cuts in education, health and human services. In the near term the bulk of the tax savings go to the most well off: in 2021, almost half of the tax cuts will go to the richest 2.5 percent of Iowa taxpayers, those making $250,000 or more.

It did all this, but failed to make reforms in the near term that would have improved our tax system like reining in expensive, ineffective business tax credits and raising the child tax credit or the standard deduction for individuals. 


The Legislature established two workgroups that will be worth watching this year. 

The Mandatory Reporter Training and Certification workgroup is charged with making recommendations related to mandatory child abuse and dependent adult abuse reporter training and certification. The workgroup will consist of representatives from most state departments. Its report is due to the Governor and General Assembly in December 2018. 

The DHS-convened SNAP Employment and Training workgroup will review opportunities to increase state engagement in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program. Recipients of SNAP benefits can be “converted” to SNAP Employment and Training, allowing participation in education and training programs toward better employment and self-sufficiency. Program costs for SNAP E&T participants are eligible for a 50-50 federal match. The workgroup is required to submit a report to the Governor and General Assembly by December 2018. 


Find your legislator

Not sure who represents you? With 50 senators and 100 representatives, it can be hard to keep tabs. Visit our Legislator Lookup tool to find out who represents you in the state house and senate, biographical information about each one and a link to their legislative websites, which list contact information and committee membership. All you need to do is enter your home address and zip code. 

Bill tracker

Want to go deeper? Curious about the status of key bills? The Center maintains a bill tracker to outline the specific legislation we are following this this session. 

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