House votes for $100M broadband budget, $50M short of governor’s request

By: - April 21, 2021 4:56 pm

The federal government needs to add harsher penalties for cyber crimes, an FBI agent said. (Photo by Denny Müller via Unsplash)

The House on Wednesday voted in favor of a $150.9 million budget for administration and regulation, including a $100 million appropriation for broadband expansion in Iowa.

“With $100 million allocated for broadband, we can work to bring connectivity to Iowa’s broadband deserts, and increase speeds across the state,” bill leader Rep. John Landon, R-Ankeny, said in a statement after the vote.

Gov. Kim Reynolds in January called for universal broadband across Iowa through a grant program, allocating money to private telecommunications companies that work in Iowa’s most underserved areas. Reynolds proposed spending $150 million a year for three years, with the goal of bringing broadband to all Iowans by 2025.

The $100 million proposal in the House falls short of Reynolds’ request. Annette Dunn, the state’s chief information officer said Tuesday that, if possible, Reynolds would likely cover any shortfall using federal aid.

In March meetings on the legislation, broadband company representatives estimated it could take over $800 million of combined public and private investment to install broadband across Iowa.

The House voted 55-37 to pass the budget, which still needs Senate approval before it is sent to Reynolds. The House and Senate have both passed House File 848, a bill that sets up the grant program. Reynolds has not yet signed the legislation into law.

“This pandemic has accentuated the need to connect every Iowan to broadband to give them the ability to work from home, access telehealth services, use precision ag technology, and more,” House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in a statement after Wednesday’s vote.

The administration and regulation budget also includes an additional $50.9 million from the state’s general fund for the maintenance of government buildings, the Secretary of State, The Department of Inspections and Appeals and the Department of Administrative services. 

Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines, asked why some departments had seen “status-quo budgets” for several years.

“I have some concerns about that, about whether really they’re getting what they need, or if they’re going to continue having to tighten their belts so much that it impacts services for Iowans,” she said.

Landon responded that many departments did not request a budget increase for fiscal year 2021.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Reporter Katie Akin began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.