Iowa’s unemployment rate remained at 6.7 percent this month. The report from the Iowa Workforce Development office showed that the state lost 1,200 jobs in the month of September. Some might find comfort that the unemployment rate didn’t increase for the first time in 2009. However, the news came on the day when state government agencies announced that 1391 jobs would be eliminated as a result of Governor Culver’s 10 percent across-the-board cuts.
That’s right, more jobs were lost yesterday than were lost in the entire month of September. The hardest areas hit by Culver’s cuts were the Department of Human Service, which cut 228 positions and the Department of Corrections, which cut 777 positions. A large portion of the job cuts could have been prevented had Governor Culver taken recommendations from his department heads and Republican legislators who combined to offer $392 million in proposed cuts and cost saving measures.
We now know that the proposed $392 million in cuts could have prevented most of the jobs eliminations that occurred yesterday. Those proposed savings could have also been used to prevent future tax increases.
For starters, both the Department of Corrections and Department of Human Services could have been spared Culver’s 10 percent cut. That would use up just over $179 million from the savings that Culver’s department heads and Republican legislators had offered. Sparing those departments from Culver’s 10 percent cut would have saved 1005 jobs.
Culver’s 10 percent cut also eliminated more than $238 million in school aid. It has been reported in newspapers all across the state that school districts will be forced to raise local property taxes to make up the difference. This could have been prevented too had Culver followed through on the recommendations presented to him. In fact, Governor Culver and the legislature would have only needed to find an additional $26 million (beyond the previously recommended cuts) to reach the $418 million needed to keep the state’s commitment to school districts and fully fund DHS and the Department of Corrections.
In tough economic times, families and state government have to make tough decisions. Below are some of the Republican proposals that Culver has ignored.
Eliminate phantom full-time employee positions. Savings: $25,000,000
Pay reduction for all state employees and officials. Savings: $72,500,000
Charge state employees a monthly fee for health insurance premiums. Savings: $17,800,000
Sell the vehicle fleet, outsource vehicle leasing. Savings: $34,000,000
Reduce office supplies, service contracts, and equipment purchases. Savings: $10,000,000
Combine all state information technology systems. Savings: $20,000,000
Sell or lease the Iowa Communications Network. Savings: $15,000,000
Reduce funding for library acquisitions at Regents by 50%. Savings: $13,500,000
No DNR land acquisition for FY 2010. Savings: $5,000,000
Freeze out-of-state travel. Savings: $1,500,000
In Governor Culver’s new campaign ad, he says, “Nobody likes to make tough decisions, but as governor, it’s my responsibility. At the end of the ad he utters a similar line, “I chose tough medicine today to build a stronger Iowa tomorrow.” The tough decision would have been to call a special session and find at least $418 million that would have spared 1005 jobs and prevented property taxes from being increased.
We now know that it wouldn’t have really been that difficult of a task. Republicans and Culver’s department heads stepped up and proposed the bulk of the cuts that were needed to prevent the majority of job cuts and the need to increase property taxes. It remains a mystery why Governor Culver discarded their ideas. It’s also a mystery why legislative Democrats have failed to offer any budget cutting recommendations of their own.
Maybe one of the reasons why Culver opted for the across-the-board cuts is because he’s unable to comprehend the mess the state is actually in and doesn’t know how to find ways to lessen the impact of budget cuts. Last week, when Culver announced that he would cut his pay, the media praised him for his symbolic gesture. Now comes word that he screwed that up, too. The Des Moines Register reported last night that Culver only cut his pay by $7,000 or 5.6 percent. The Governor’s office pointed out that pay cuts are not retroactive, so Culver’s pay cut would only be $7,000 instead of $13,000. This is an insignificant gaffe for the Governor, but it’s embarrassing. It highlights the concerns that many Iowans have about Governor Culver. He is incompetent and in over his head.
Iowans understand these are tough economic times, but they also want a competent chief executive. Governor Culver may say the right things in his campaign ads, but his decision to subject all departments to a 10 percent across-the-board cut was just plain lazy. Not only did it cost 1391 people their jobs yesterday, but every school district has been affected, and as a result, property taxes are on their way up. Most of this could have been avoided had Culver listened to his department heads and reached across the aisle to work with Republicans.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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