Iowa’s longest-serving governor says he did not hand out huge bonuses to state employees. A report released in June found current Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, has given about a million dollars in bonuses to about a thousand state employees over the past two years.
Former Governor Terry Branstad is president of Des Moines University now and Branstad, who’s a Republican, says he’s “not that political” anymore, but Branstad says he gave bonuses when he was governor only when warranted. “On a few occasions we provided bonuses for extraordinary things,” Branstad says. “They were small bonuses and it wasn’t very often.”
The report released earlier this month showed 28 state employees got bonuses worth more than five-thousand dollars from Governor Vilsack. For example, Vilsack’s prison director got a 34-thousand dollar bonus. Branstad says none of the bonuses he handed out during his 16 years as governor were that large, and none topped 10-thousand dollars.
“Bonuses (during my tenure) were modest and they were given for somebody that’s done something really extraordinary, kind of above and beyond the call so it wasn’t very often that it was used,” Branstad says. Branstad, who was governor from January, 1983 to January, 1999, says legislators set salary caps for top state government executives and he tried “to live within” those limits. But Branstad says he did use bonuses on certain occasions and Branstad has a bonus system in place for the osteopathic college which he now leads.
“I think there are some benefits to having some kind of an incentive system that rewards and recognizes people who do extraordinary things,” Branstad says. “I just don’t think it should be huge or something that is abused.” While Branstad’s no longer in the day-to-day political mix, Branstad’s oldest son, Eric, has been working behind-the-scenes in Iowa G-O-P circles and is currently the deputy finance director for the Republican Party of Iowa. Marcus Branstad, the former governor’s youngest son, just signed on to work for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in Iowa.