Republican State Auditor Dave Vaudt says the Democratically-controlled Iowa Legislature and Democrat Governor Chet Culver put together a state budget plan that spends over 10 percent more than the previous year.
"I think that our elected officials understand the issues and we all talk about the good budgeting practices that we should be following, but the key is it doesn’t make any difference until we start implementing those good budgeting practices," Vaudt says.
According to Vaudt, legislators and the governor are too focused on short-term goals. "I always step back and say if each of us, personally, only considered the short-term consequences of our spending habits at home, we’d make totally different decisions than when we consider both the short-term and the long-term consequences."
Vaudt says it is "discouraging" that lawmakers decided to spend more than the state collected in tax revenue. Vaudt labels that one of his "primary concerns." Governor Culver has said he’s trying to improve state budgeting practices by using less money set aside in state trust funds, but Vaudt says he doesn’t see much follow through in the first budget Culver has approved as governor.
Vaudt warns that if there’s a recession, lawmakers will have to either enact deep cuts in state government programs and services, or raise taxes. "If we have a fiscal downturn, just stop and image what challenges we’re going to face and what dramatic steps we’re going to have to take in order to bring expenditures in line with revenue," Vaudt says. Democrats have argued that after a decade of lean state budgets, there were pent up needs in state government that had to be met — like the pay hike for teachers.
Vaudt disputes the idea state budgets have been "lean." "When you look at the real true spending increases — and I’ve done that over the last several years, you will see that our spending increases averaged over a four year period…about eight percent per year," Vaudt says. "I don’t consider…that that’s a crimp on government spending." Vaudt made his comments Wednesday afternoon during a news conference in his statehouse office.