Governor Terry Branstad has filed an emergency motion with the Iowa Supreme Court to keep the Iowa Workforce Development agency operating while he works with lawmakers to recraft the agency’s budget.
This morning the court ruled Branstad overstepped his item veto authority by rejecting legislators’ intent to keep 36 regional Workforce Development offices. Branstad redirected the money elsewhere, which the court ruled was unconstitutional. The court also tossed out the entire budget plan for several divisions in the agency.
A few hours after the ruling, Branstad told reporters in Northwood, Iowa, the decision had “far-reaching implications.”
Branstad’s aides had said more than 200 layoffs in the Workforce Development agency were “now possible,” but the governor’s action late this afternoon seeks to avoid that.
“Those who brought the lawsuit, with this result, eliminated funding for our Workforce Development services,” Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said in a written statement. “The governor’s action today to stay the decision from this reckless lawsuit is intended to prevent layoffs and maintain these needed services for Iowa’s workers and unemployed.”
A Democratic senator at the center of the controversy over Iowa Workforce Development offices that serve unemployed Iowans says he wants to quickly find a compromise with Republican Governor Branstad. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, was one of the legislators who filed the now-successful lawsuit challenging Branstad’s action.
“We’re going to have to do something in an expedited manner and I’m looking forward to sitting down with the governor’s office and my fellow House members and Workforce officials to try to figure this out and move it forward,” Dotzler said, “and keeping in mind the people who need these services and those are those unemployed and disloated workers across the state.”
Dotzler said the first decision legislators and the governor need to make involves meeting the next payroll for the agency and keeping those 200 workers on the job. There’s another complicating factor, though, as most of the employees in this agency are paid with a combination of state and federal tax dollars.
“We will be trying to resolve this issue and, obviously, we’ve got to put the dollars back, authorize what was spent so the state doesn’t lose federal dollars,” Dotzler said. “And so we have to move pretty fast.”
The Republican who heads the House Appropriations Committee issued a written statement, saying legislators will “carefully review” the court’s opinion and “identify necessary steps” that should be taken.