Republican State Auditor Dave Vaudt says the budget plan Democratic Governor Chet Culver presented lawmakers in January gives him "heartburn." "If you step back and take a look at the two year period of (Governor Culver’s) administration, especially what he’s proposed in this particular budget, it would show you that revenues have grown $835 million during that two year period," Vaudt says. "…80 percent of that growth has been from new fees and taxes."
In the current budget plan Culver’s pushing, he proposed doubling the deposit fee on cans and bottles as well as a business tax change that Culver claims would net about $70 million for the state.
Vaudt says while the governor did make some positive moves to ensure state spending plans are more "transparent," the spending level is still way to high and the governor proposes dipping into special state trust funds, too.
"We’re pretty much maxing out our credit cards," Vaudt says. "The Senior Living Trust Fund and a bunch of those funds on which we’ve depended over the last few years are being depleted and that means $193 million going forward into fiscal year 2010 that we’re using in fiscal 2009 will no longer be available so we’re going to have to fill that hole."
Vaudt also raises concerns about the governor’s call to place the taxes from state-licensed gambling casinos into the state’s general fund to pay for general state expenses. Today, much of that money is funneled into a separate fund which pays for construction and repair of state-owned facilities. "It’s odd that at a time when we’re stressing that we have huge (prison) infrastructure needs and we’re also talking about horizonal infrastructure — roads and bridges — and how we’re going to fund the projected costs that we have in the future for those that we’d take monies that are currently dedicated for infrastructure and redirect them," Vaudt says.
According to Vaudt, it makes no sense to make sure a move, especially when the governor advocates borrowing money to pay for a new state prison in Fort Madison. "Just seems to be a strange way to go when we have such huge infrastructure needs," Vaudt says.
A plan being considered by lawmakers would raise the license fees for all the vehicles Iowans buy in the future to raise more money for road construction and repair.