Decisions for Iowa Schools: Take Less Guaranteed Money Now Or Chance at More Money Later

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa school administrators face a tough math question. Are they willing to take guaranteed money now? Or should they turn it down for the chance to get more money later? That's the question before them--and state lawmakers--under a plan officially unveiled by Gov. Terry Branstad Tuesday morning.

Current law means the state's one-cent sales tax expires in 2029. That money, estimated at nearly $400  million per year, provides the base schools use for infrastructure projects. The governor wants to extend the sales tax an additional 20 years.

But here's where the difficult math question comes into play: he would guarantee schools $10 million a year for their infrastructure projects. Any additional money the sales tax brings in would then go instead to water quality improvements plans.

That could mean schools potentially give up $4.7 billion over the next 32 years, according to figures from the governor's office. That's a dilemma that faces near certain opposition when the new legislative session begins Jan. 11.

Democrats worry the plan simply takes money away from schools and puts it toward environmental projects, instead of coming up with sufficient funding for both major areas.

Branstad said of his concept, "This is the biggest and boldest" of any throughout his five-decade career in public service.

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