After months of remaining hopeful that Iowa’s economy would rebound, Governor Chet Culver was forced to take drastic actions to balance the state’s budget. Yesterday afternoon, Governor Culver ordered a 10% across-the-board cut, slashing the budget that he signed this spring by $600 million.
In his press conference, Governor Culver said that the situation required him to act immediately instead of calling a special session that would allow legislators to make more targeted cuts because that would take too much time. Culver said, “We would’ve had 150 different opinions on where to cut… But the fact is we need to act. We need to move. I was concerned it would literally take weeks and weeks to reach an agreement.”
Governor Culver’s comment on the special session is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Republicans called for a special session when the last fiscal year came to a close. The initial numbers showed the state ending FY 2009 with a $161 million deficit. Republicans wanted a special session so that they could begin to make targeted cuts. Governor Culver refused. Instead he decided to wait until the books on FY 2009 closed in September. With the FY 2009 budget still out of balance, Culver transferred $45.3 million from the state’s economic emergency fund and withheld paying $30 million in corporate tax refunds until the next fiscal year to balance last year’s budget. Now, less than a month later, Culver is forced to make massive cuts to this year’s budget.
The other interesting nugget to take from Governor Culver’s comments is that it shows just how weak of a governor he really is. In his remarks today, Governor Culver mentioned that it will take a bipartisan effort to deal with the budget. Yet, when Republicans proposed over $330 million in targeted cuts, which is over half of what the Governor cut today, their input was ignored. Culver said that a special session would take weeks and weeks for the legislature to come to an agreement, despite Republicans having a plan on the table for almost six months now. Even if Culver doesn’t like the Republican proposal, Democrats control both legislative chambers by large margins. One would think that a Democrat Governor in the midst of a budget crisis could build consensus within his own political party.
Despite the massive cuts which will force government agencies to layoff or furlough workers and cut services and programs, Governor Culver still believes that the state’s problems are not a result of his spending practices. Governor Culver said, “Iowa has not spent too much.” Reality tells us otherwise.
In his first two years in office, Governor Culver increased spending by nearly $1 billion, or around 20 percent. While drafting the FY 2010 budget last spring, Culver already implemented a 2.5% across the board cut from previous years, however, some areas were spared. Now Culver has sliced another 10% off of that, meaning the FY 2010 budget is almost 12.5% lower than the previous year’s budget.
The round of budget cuts that Governor Culver has implemented was not caused because the economy went into the tank. This is happening because, after he took office, Culver grew government and increased spending. Everyone will agree that the economy is in bad shape. It is a realization that our Governor just recently came to, but this isn’t a “great recession, or another Depression” as Governor Culver said yesterday. It’s a correction of his poor fiscal management of our state.
The unfortunate part of all of this is that every branch of government will be affected by Governor Culver’s lack of leadership and thirst to grow government after being elected. It is the new programs and initiatives created under Governor Culver that are now making it necessary to cut all areas of the budget, including public safety and K-12 education, not the poor economy. If Governor Culver would have implemented the $330 million in cuts proposed by Iowa Republicans and rolled back or eliminated the new programs created under his administration, the state and its citizens would be much better off in the future.
This isn’t a budget crisis. It’s a leadership crisis.
Photo by Dave Davidson
blog comments powered by Disqus