Governor Chet Culver has ordered at one-and-a-half percent, across-the-board cut in the state budget. The move’s expected to save more than $90 million.
Some state workers may be laid off, or be forced to take an unpaid furlough. "As you can imagine, this is not what I want to do," Culver says, "but it’s what I have to do as governor."
Culver’s letting state agency directors decide if layoffs or furloughs will be necessary. Culver plans in January to ask state legislators to provide stop-gap funding to ensure prison guards and state troopers aren’t laid off. All other areas of state government will be cut, according to Culver, and that includes education.
"For example, the Board of Regents will have a $10 million cut. School districts across the state will see a reduction of $33 million," Culver says. "There will be a significant cut to Medicaid." Medicaid is the joint state and federal program which provides health care coverage to the poor and disabled.
The governor says every Iowan must face the challenges the current economic situation presents, "accept the reality and share in the sacrifice" — and that includes state workers. "It’s going to be painful," Culver says.
So far this month Culver has pared nearly $179 million from the current state budget. The governor says those steps are necessary, as next year’s budget situation may be even more dire if the economy doesn’t rebound. "So we have to be very prudent about the steps that we take," Culver says, "and as painful as this is for everyone that is going to be impacted, it’s the right thing to do."
Legislative leaders from both political parties say Culver took "necessary" and "appropriate" steps to deal with a "challenging" situation, as state tax collections have fallen below expectations.
(This story was updated at 1:50 p.m.)