Governor Culver’s budget chief is expressing confidence the state budget will be balanced when the books are closed on the 2009 state fiscal year. The budgeting year ended yesterday, on June 30, but the final bookkeeping wrap-up won’t be complete until the fall.
Dick Oshlo, Culver’s budget director, says they still don’t know exactly how much in taxes the state collected and exactly how much was spent.
“The first number that is going to be actually decided is the gross receipts number and that is what we’re calculating literally right now,” Oshlo says. “We’re going to have to look at expenditures and reversions and accruals, and those numbers are not going to be available for another three months — until September.”
Some state agency directors may not have spent all that was allotted to them and they’ll be turning money back in — that’s what Oshlo calls reversions.
“I think department directors have been managing and looking to the future and not filling certain vacancies and therefore we believe that we have reversions and expenditures will be lower than what many anticipated,” Oshlo says.
But Republican lawmakers question whether the budget will wind up in a deficit, which is illegal. State tax receipts have fallen off dramatically and, if the budget dips into the red, the governor only has authority to transfer $50 million from the state’s cash reserve to balance the books.
Culver and his aides, however, insist the books will balance without requiring a special legislative session this summer to deal with the situation. And the governor’s budget director rejects the idea that calculating the upspent funds and the other bookkeeping maneuvers he described is anything out of the ordinary.
“I don’t think we’ll be using smoke and mirrors to balance in September,” Oshlo says. “We’re going to be doing what any business does to manage its budget and its fiscal resources.”
The top Republican in the Iowa Senate issued a statement, suggesting Governor Culver “seems to be auditioning for the role of Gilligan.” Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton says Culver’s “taking Iowa taxpayers on a three hour tour,” but he’s “let go of the rudder of the ship” and the state budget is sinking.