Governor Chet Culver says there will be "significant layoffs" in the state government workforce in the coming year as agencies deal with budget cuts.
Culver this morning revealed more details of his state budget plan for the fiscal year which begins July 1st, and bristled when Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen questioned whether the cuts were deep enough.
"I don’t know how much further you want us to go, David," Culver said during a news conference in his statehouse office. "We’ve cut $580 million. It represents the largest cut in decades, if not ever."
Culver ordered an across-the-board cut as well as selective cuts in the current year’s budget which amounted to about $180 million. The governor’s outline for next year pares another $400 million.
"This is not a game. We’re doing what we have to do by law to balance the budget," Culver said. "…We’re doing the responsible thing and to suggest that six-and-a-half percent is not enough, which represents perhaps the largest cut ever in our state, coupled with the $180 million, is just wrong."
Culver is proposing a six-and-a-half cut in the operating budgets for most state agencies, along with a $200 million withdrawal from the state’s cash reserve so the cuts don’t go deeper. However, some public safety and programs which provide health care and job search services won’t be cut as dramatically and will be allowed to hire workers, as needed.
The rest of state government has been under a hiring freeze since mid-December. "Significant layoffs are very likely," Culver says. "Anytime you cut $580 million out of a budget, you’re going to have layoffs."
Charlie Krogmeier, Culver’s chief of staff, says the state will continue to fulfill its obligations, doing things like safety inspections of elevators and amusement rides and patrolling the highways, but Iowans will likely notice a reduction in some state services. "I don’t think in most cases, frankly, that departments are going to be able to absorb these cuts and not see some change in services," Krogmeier says.
The governor and his staff say the budget plan Culver unveiled this morning spends about $88 million less than what’s being spent in the current year.
Culver has said he wants to balance the budget without raising taxes, and again today Culver voiced his opposition to raising the gas tax. "I don’t know how much more clear I could be. I do not think raising the gas tax during a recession is a prudent thing to do during a recession. Period," Culver said. "However, if 150 legislators want to keep talking about it, they have that right."
The state of Iowa could receive millions, if not a couple of billion dollars from the federal stimulus package. Culver’s budget outline does not include any of that federal money in his budget, as the governor says the stimulus package is still going through revisions.
Click here to view the budget documents the governor forwarded to lawmakers today. Click on the audio link below to listen to the entire 43 minute news conference.