November 20, 2014

Judge: Branstad’s action to close IWD offices unconstitutional

A Polk County judge has ruled against Governor Branstad in a case involving the closure of 36 offices around the state that provided services to unemployed Iowans.

Branstad used a line-item veto in a budget bill to strike language that would’ve kept the Iowa Workforce Development offices open. The Governor said the action would save the state $6.5 million a year by moving the services online – to computer stations placed in libraries, homeless shelters and other locations.

The lawsuit, filed by AFSCME and five Democrats in the legislature, claimed the governor does not have the power to re-direct money struck through a line-item veto. Polk County Judge Brad McCall agreed, saying there must also be a veto of the funding.

The lawsuit cited a 2004 case in which Republicans sued then Governor Tom Vilsack. A spokesman for Branstad did not rule out an appeal, saying historically item veto cases are decided by the Iowa Supreme Court.

A statement from Rep. Dave Jacoby, Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, and Rep. Bruce Hunter who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the Governor’s veto: “Governor Branstad clearly overstepped his authority when he shut down 36 local centers where Iowans go to find a job and we are pleased the court agreed with us. Unfortunately, thousands of Iowans looking for good-paying jobs are still suffering from Governor Branstad’s reckless actions. I hope the Governor takes this ruling to heart and, instead of proclaiming himself to be the ‘sheriff’, is now willing to work with us to strengthen the middle class and put Iowans back to work.”

Statement from AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan: “This ruling marks an important day for the tens of thousands of unemployed Iowans who again have a valuable resource in their communities where they can turn for employment assistance. At a time when so many of Iowa’s working families face an uncertain economy and the threat of job losses, it is vital to have a safety net for those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. It is our hope that Governor Branstad will now focus on finding solutions to Iowa’s unemployment problems instead of taking veto actions like this that only make it harder for Iowans to find work.”