The directors of most state agencies are trying to figure out ways to trim six-and-a-half percent from their budgets, without dramatic reductions in services or huge layoffs. Republican Bill Northey, Iowa’s Ag Secretary, is the head of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. He says in general, considering the tough economic times, cuts of that magnitude makes sense.
"It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be very tough," Northey says. "In our Department of Agriculture, we have shown a drop of 35 employees over the last eight years We now have 12 open positions to handle the one-and-a-half percent (budget) cut that we have now, and to have a six-and-a-half percent cut on top of that is really going to challenge us to get everything done that we need to get done."
Department of Natural Resources director Rich Leopold says he’s been reviewing the details of the budget plan Governor Culver revealed Wednesday. "Of course we’ve had a tough year already with all the flood damage and lost revenues, although in the governor’s budget there (are) supplemental monies in there to help the D.N.R. so we can open all our state parks and wildlife areas and everything as scheduled this spring, so a mixture of good and bad," Leopold says.
"We still haven’t got it all figured out yet." Leopold’s agency is responsible for maintaining state parks and the D.N.R. oversees state environmental regulations.
Leopold considers layoffs and furloughs a last resort. "That is the very last thing on my list as far as measures we have to take. Thus far, we’ve done everything possible to avoid layoffs and furloughs," Leopold says.
"At first blush, I think we’re going to be o.k., but it’s early and we need to take a hard look at that numbers and what it means to our agency." In addition to the 55 state parks, the D.N.R. oversees more than 10,000 acres of state preserves as well as nearly 44,000 acres of forest.