State Auditor Dave Vaudt says Governor Chet Culver needs to propose deeper cuts in the state budget. "When you look at $6.5 billion budget, in tough economic times if you can’t find more than $43 million worth of spending to reduce, then you’re not looking hard enough," Vaudt says.
Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, presented his proposed budget to legislators in late January. Vaudt, who is a Republican, says while Culver proposes cuts of as much as 10 percent in some state agencies, the governor would allow spending to accelerate in areas like education and health care — a combination that accounts for that $43 million figure Vaudt identified as cuts.
Vaudt also disputes Culver’s assertion that the state’s budget woes are caused by the double-hit of a poor economy and natural disasters. "That’s a very small part of our problem," Vaudt says. "Yes, it magnifies our problem. It’s definitely a piece of our problem but even absent the floods and the disasters and the recession, we’d still be dealing with a very significant spending gap because of our poor budget practices of the past."
The state’s Republican auditor also is criticizing the Democratic governor’s proposal to borrow $700 million for infrastructure projects. Vaudt says it would be short-sighted to borrow money when the state already has a special fund set up for infrastructure projects. Vaudt says if the governor and legislators would stop diverting money from that fund, the state would have about a quarter of a billion dollars in gambling taxes and payments related to the tobacco companies’ settlement with the state.
"Now, stop and think: $250 million a year over a three-year period would give you more money than the governor is proposing to bond," Vaudt says. "The $700 million is going to take us 20 years to repay — huge difference there."
A spokesman for the governor suggests Vaudt’s critique is more about politics than finances. "We understand the Auditor’s motivation to criticize Governor Culver these days may have less to do with fiscal policy and more to do with his own ambitions," Culver communications director Phil Roeder said in a prepared statement. "…The state’s budget has been well-managed under the Culver/Judge Administration. It lacks credulity to suggest otherwise."
Auditor Vaudt has said he is considering a bid for governor in 2010 and if Vaudt were to win the Republican Party’s nomination, he’d face off against Culver who intends to seek reelection