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October 8th, 2009

GOP Candidates Respond to Culver’s Budget Crisis

Culver Crisis

Roberts Criticizes Culver;s Failure to Call a Special Session

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts is criticizing Governor Culver’s decision yesterday to cut state spending “across the board” by 10%. The Governor’s decision came in response to a report on Wednesday that state revenue would be $415 million lower than expected for the current fiscal year. Roberts—who had been warning Culver of the state’s budget emergency for several months—believes the Governor should have called for a special legislative session to correct the revenue shortfall.

“An across the board cut of 10 percent of the state’s budget is simply poor governance,” said Roberts, an Assistant Minority Leader in the Iowa House of Representatives. “A cut of this size should have been made by the legislature.”

Roberts pointed out that Culver missed several opportunities over the past year to avoid the present budget emergency. During the legislative session earlier this year, House Republicans proposed $330 million in spending cuts to help avoid a budget crisis, but Culver rejected them. Over the past six months, it was already becoming apparent that the state’s revenue for the current fiscal year would be significantly lower than expected. Governor Culver had many opportunities to call a special legislative session to correct the revenue shortfall, but he failed to do so.

“The Governor has known over the past year that his out-of-control spending was going to result in a budget emergency—he didn’t find that out for the first time on Wednesday,” said Roberts. “Chet Culver failed to manage the state’s finances over the past year and now Iowans will pay the price.”

Culver’s budget cut is a poorly tailored response to the fiscal emergency that the state is facing, according to Roberts. Culver cut $565 million from the state budget when only $415 was necessary. Further, the “across the board” nature of the cut means that programs throughout state government—whether in education, healthcare, or law enforcement—will suffer budget cuts regardless of how well they have been performing, how badly they need the funding, or how important their service is to Iowans.

“Budget cuts were needed, but the Governor’s response went overboard and failed to carefully consider both the performance of state agencies and the interests of Iowans who depend upon the agencies,” said Roberts, a five-term State Representative from Carroll. “Culver should have called a special session yesterday. Legislators would have been in a better position to make considered, case-by-case judgments on where budget cuts should have been made. If I had been governor, I would have called a special session yesterday; in fact, I would have called one months ago.”

Statement from Christian Fong, Republican for Governor

Today, Iowa could no longer avoid the inevitable; our government growth has been out-of-control. The Governor’s attempt to blame the recession, Wall Street or Washington D.C. is political theater, and not accepting responsibility. None of those outside parties were responsible for our overspending, on pet projects like the $208 million Iowa Film Office scandal.

Under Governor Culver, Iowa’s state government grew by 20%. Today’s painful 10% cut would not be necessary if the State had not embarked on an outrageous pattern of overspending in the first place. Yet today Governor Culver said he would not do anything differently. Iowans should take that as a signal of what the future would hold if he was re-elected.

Iowa needs intelligent leadership that can learn from mistakes. Responsible leadership that admits when a past decision did not work. And hard-working leadership that prevents a problem from growing into a crisis. Iowa needs a new Governor.

Vander Plaats Statement in Response to Culver’s Across-The-Board Cut

DES MOINES – Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats issued the following statement in response to Gov. Chet Culver’s 10-percent, across-the-board budget cut announced this afternoon:

“When I was growing up in Sheldon, my Dad always used to say to me, ‘Don’t start something you can’t finish.’ He said that because he knew it was especially important that you don’t let people down when you make a promise to them. Chet Culver started a lot of things with the state budget he signed that he just can’t finish. It’s not the result of the national economy; it’s the result of his failure to contain spending even as he was being warned the recession was going to hit Iowa hard. As a result, a lot of people are going to be hurt. State employees are going to pay a high price for his fiscal irresponsibility. Iowans who were counting on state services because of the promises inherent in the budget he signed into law are going to feel a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. And, property tax payers are going to feel the impact of this action, too.

“Chet Culver once again has proven that his procrastinating when it comes to taking on problems has only made them worse and worse. The idea that the Department of Corrections, for instance, must make a $40-million reduction three months into the fiscal year really means the cuts are deeper than 10 percent.

“If I had been governor I would never have approved the exorbitant spending increases over the past few years that got us into this trouble. I would’ve exercised foresight and caution rather than increasing the state budget roughly 18 percent in the past few budget cycles at the same time Iowa families and businesses were being forced to cut their own budgets.

“Finally, it doesn’t require a lot of leadership to make an across-the-board cut. It’s an easy way out. It says outdated and ineffective programs are just as important as public safety, human services and education. Going forward, Governor Culver should be working closely with legislators from both sides of the aisle to prioritize spending and budget cuts. The time of a crisis is where effective leadership matters most. Unfortunately, Chet Culver has already failed the test.”

Chris Rants Statement on Revenue Estimating Conference

The Revenue Estimating Conference met today to revise the revenue estimate for FY 2010 and set the revenue estimate for FY 2011.

The previous estimate for FY 2010 was $5.843, or -1.4 percent compared to actual adjusted FY 2009. The new estimate is $5.438 billion, or -8.4 percent compared to FY 09. This is $415 million lower than the estimate used to create the FY 2010 budget.

When the ending balance is taken into account, the budget is $315 million short for FY 2010. Also by law the Governor is required to refill the $45.3 million taken from the Economic Emergency Fund to balance the FY 09 budget.

In order to balance the budget he would need to order a 6.2 percent across the board cut. If he notwithstands the EEF language, he would need a 5.4 percent across the board cut.

I believe an across the board cut is a dumb and lazy way to handle the problem.

A smarter solution that reflects the priorities of Iowans is to make a series of targeted reductions, and program eliminations.
It doesn’t make sense to cut the purchasing of new vehicles for the state fleet by 5.4% or half a million dollars when a smart move would be to stop the purchasing the cars entirely and save a full $11 million. The list could go on and on.

What concerns me most is that an across the board cut may lead to an increase in property taxes. If Gov. Culver cuts the state portion of K-12 school aid, but leaves intact their spending authority, that means school districts can back fill his cut with property taxes. That is the last thing Iowas dragging economy needs now.

If, or more likely when, Governor Culver issues his across the board cut, at that time I will put forward a list of targeted reductions and eliminations.

Then we’ll let Iowans compare the impacts of the two ideas and decide which one is a better solution.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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The Iowa Republican

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