Governor Chet Culver is asking legislators to rethink their opposition to his proposal for financing the operations of the Iowa State Highway Patrol. Culver has called for using state gas taxes to pay salaries and expenses for the state troopers, but legislators are reluctant to divert that money from construction and maintenance of Iowa roads and bridges.
Culver says using gas tax money for troopers makes sense, and it should be added to the state government reorganization plan that will be debated in the House later this week. “If they would have included that, for example, we would have been at about $235 million in savings or $330 million plus when you combine that with my executive order,” Culver says.
Culver issued an executive order about two months ago, using his authority to implement a variety of budget-trimming ideas suggested by a consulting firm he hired. Culver says there are about 50 recommendations from the consultants which he’s passed along to legislators, but they aren’t included in the reorganization bill.
“Our goal all along of finding about $340 million in savings is coming closer to reality. Obviously, we’re going to have some differences and the Road Use funding was one of those — a $50 million difference,” Culver says. “And I’ve just asked the legislature to explain exactly where we’re going to find that $50 million of cost savings.”
On another budget-related issue, Culver says later this week he’ll approve the bill which establishes a package of incentives for state executive branch workers who retire early.
Culver isn’t endorsing the idea of closing or downsizing the Mental Health Institute in Clarinda, but he’s not ruling it out either. In December Culver’s human services director recommended the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute be closed, but senators have voted to change that plan. Culver suggests legislators need to show how their “different” path would achieve budget savings.
“Our office felt that if you really want to find the cost savings that the best options, in terms of closing one of the four Mental Health Institutes, was Mount Pleasant. That’s where you could realize the most savings,” Culver says. “…Again, the legislature has decided to do something different.” Later this week the House will debate a government reorganization plan that addresses this controversy.
During his weekly news conference, Culver was asked whether he would oppose closing or downsizing Clarinda. “I think it’s a question better directed to the legislature, to see if they’re going to have a consensus on Clarinda,” Culver said. Over 60 Clarinda-area residents trekked to the statehouse Monday for a public hearing to express their opposition to shutting down the Clarinda facility.