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November 22nd, 2010

Chet flips the bird at Branstad…and the state of Iowa

By Gary Barrett

Thanks to our outgoing governor, any chance of solving Iowa’s job crisis and moving the state out of our economic morass is now zero next year.

Voters sent Iowa politicians a clear message in November that even Sen. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal could understand:  “It’s time to work on getting people back to work.”  When Gronstal and the Iowa Senate leadership emerged from their caucus last week, he committed to working with the new GOP-controlled Iowa legislature on programs to get Iowans working and help small business.

But Gronstal and legislative Democrats have a big debt to repay to AFSCME, the union that represents the largest number of state employees.  AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) spent over $250,000 in the last cycle of the November election alone-mostly on legislative races.

They didn’t spend anything on Culver directly (but did give several large checks to the Iowa Democratic Party which spent money on anti-Branstad ads).   So when it came down to the negotiations for a new contract, Culver could have left it up to Branstad to negotiate.  After all, he didn’t owe the unions anything, right?

Apparently not.  In what Rod Boshart of the Cedar Rapids Gazette describes as a “bargaining session that spanned less than five minutes“, Culver approved the first offer of the union for a new contract, without discussion, argument or apparently review.  A contract agreement was signed that commits over $100 million dollars a year of YOUR TAX DOLLARS to salary increases for state employees.

Rightfully, Gov. Branstad’s transition team was in an uproar.  They had asked to be part of the negotiations.  Now they are forced to deal with the aftermath.  Incoming House Speaker Kraig Paulsen called it “unfortunate” that Culver would approve a $100 million a year plan at a time when the legislature next year has to fill a $600 million budget hole that will happen when state programs Culver funded with one-time federal stimulus money don’t have the “Obama money” anymore.

Thanks, Chet

So what this means is that any chance of any meaningful action by the legislature in 2011 to increase employment, and bring more business to the state is gone.  First, there’s not going to be any money for any new programs since Culver’s giving it all to state workers and second, the legislature will be beset with so many infights that it will be a miracle if anything’s accomplished.

Democrats in the legislature have a debt to repay to AFSCME-a quid pro quo for their support in unprecedented amounts of legislative races in the final days so that they could hold onto their seats.  The only way to repay that debt is approve what AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan calls a “historic” agreement.

Republicans have a responsibility to trim the budget-that’s what voters kept telling them to do.  Spend less.

So Culver killed job creation and a lot more:

1. State employees need to take a close look at your co-workers that are higher up the seniority ladder than you.  See them laughing at you?  If you ratify the agreement, you’re signing your own pink slip, as inevitably there will be layoffs to pay for this contract. And it’ll be you that goes-not them.

2. Teachers-do you see pink paper suddenly being delivered to the superintendent’s office in your district?  That’s because YOUR pink slips are being prepared again.  And this time there’s no “Obama money” to save you.

3. If you run a small business, don’t expect a lot of help.  Culver signed away any of that money to the union.

4. And for taxpayers hoping Democrats would push thru the tax break that Culver campaigned on:  Forget it.  That money’s gone anyway.

So we’ll have a legislature already destined to be tied up with battles over social issues further deadlocked over the budget and the budget hole Culver created.

Now, for those people who told me that Chet Culver “wouldn’t dare” get the Judicial Nominating Commission to rush through a re-nomination of the ousted Iowa Supreme Court justices so he could approve them before Branstad takes office:  Do you still think I’m way out in left field there?

Culver doesn’t care about Iowa anymore-he’s just trying to please people who’ll hire him in the future.  He needs a job and will do what it takes to get one.  Meaning I’m still betting Marsha Ternus will get to continue using her stationery for awhile.

Gary works for WHO Radio and blogs here.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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The Iowa Republican

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