Governor Chet Culver has said no to a union-backed bill and he’s vetoed the pay raise legislators approved for Culver and other statewide elected officials.
After weeks of debate inside the governor’s office about the legislation, Culver rejected the bill which would have expanded the union bargaining rights of government employees, including teachers. “While I have always been a strong supporter of workers’ rights and collective bargaining, a close examination of House File 2645 shows that it is not in the best interest of the taxpayers of Iowa to let this legislation become law,” Culver said during a statehouse news conference late Wednesday afternoon.
Culver called the legislation “vague” and he acknowledged he’ll be criticized by some of his fellow Democrats for vetoing the union-backed bill. But Culver maintains there’s no breach with labor, a key part of the Democratic Party’s voting coalition. “My record is clear in terms of what I’ve been able to do on behalf of working people in Iowa. We’ve done things like raise the minimum wage. We’ve had some success and I hope to continue to work with organizations, business and labor, so that we can try to come together to get things done for the people of Iowa,” Culver said.
According to Culver, his office received hundreds of letters and email from Iowans who objected to the more than nine percent pay raise legislators approved for the governor, as well as the 12 percent pay hikes for other statewide elected officials like the auditor, treasurer, ag secretary and secretary of state. “Iowans are right to demand responsibility and results from state government and Iowans expect that the people they hire to run the state continue to live in the same world and deal with the same economic reality they deal with every day,” Culver said, reading from a prepared statement.
Two weeks ago, Culver told reporters he would likely sign the pay raises into law. “Well, I was wrong about the bill initially and I did say I was leaning towards signing it but I spent a lot of time listening to my constituents…and ultimately decided that it was not in the best interests of the people of this state to do it,” Culver told statehouse reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Culver did not veto pay raises planned for high-ranking judges.
Click on the audio link below to listen to Culver’s news conference.
The top three Democrats in the legislature — Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Hosue Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines — issued a written statement: “We are incredibly disappointed by the Governor’s veto of legislation that would have improved the lives and the standard of living of hard-working teachers, police officers, firefighters and correctional workers who are on the front lines everyday.
“After full debate in the House and Senate, we had hoped the Governor would approve these modest but important changes to our collective bargaining law that would have brought Iowa in line with 27 other states and the private sector.
“We repeatedly offered to consider changes to the bill and not a single suggestion was offered by Governor Culver or his administration. We continue to believe that employees with a strong voice in the workplace will lead to greater productivity and we will continue to work on behalf of teachers, firefighters, police officers, correctional workers, and other public employees.”
The top Republican in the Iowa House — House Minority Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City — praised Culver in a written statement: “I am pleased that Gov. Culver did the right thing and vetoed the bill that guts Iowa’s collective bargaining law,” said Rants. “Culver took the time to have an open discussion about the bill, unlike his Democrat counterparts in the House and Senate. Culver standing up to his own party illustrates how truly awful this legislation was and how out of touch the House Democrats were with Iowans.”
The top Republican in the Iowa Senate — Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City — also issued a statement: “How bad is this union special interest-backed bill that a Democrat Governor has to veto it. Senate Republicans worked hard to inform Iowans about this legislation, going to extraordinary lengths by staying in caucus for more than 26 hours before Easter weekend to highlight how bad this bill was for Iowa’s school boards and municipal governments, and most importantly Iowa’s property taxpayers. I think sensibility has won out.”
Linda Nelson, president of the Iowa State Education Association — the state teachers’ union, issued the following statement: “We are deeply disappointed by Gov. Culver’s veto of HF 2645. This legislation would have leveled the playing field for educators and other public employees at the bargaining table. It would have allowed us to negotiate over issues that impact student achievement like class size, preparation time, in-service, and a whole host of other topics that under the current law are deemed “permissive” and off-limits for discussion. While we appreciate the Governor’s support for funding public schools and for making teacher salaries competitive, he missed a great opportunity to recognize educators as true professionals and full partners in educational decision making. We are committed to working with Gov. Culver to craft a bill which accomplishes that objective.”