While Iowa’s Democratic governor and his top budget advisors say there’s no reason to "panic" about state spending, several Republicans are calling for a special legislative session to fix what they characterize as deep holes in the budget.
Governor Culver’s budget chief says despite a decline in tax revenue, the state budget is "manageable" and there’s no need for legislators to reconvene in Des Moines. But Republican Representative Christopher Rants of Sioux City, a likely 2010 candidate for governor, disagrees.
"We absolutely need to have a special session," Rants says. "One: we have a constitutional obligation to balance the budget."
The 2009 state budgeting year ended this past Tuesday, on June 30, and Republicans say it appears to them there’ll be a deficit of at least 43 million dollars that needs to be erased. Rants says beyond that, it’s time to cut spending for the current, 12-month budgeting year that began today, July 1.
"We need to deal with it here, in July — this summer," Rants says, "not take a wait-and-see approach."
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton has accused Culver of being like the character "Gilligan" in the TV series "Gilligan’s Island" — letting go of the "rudder" and endangering the ship of state.
Rants suggests it’s time for legislators to reconvene so they can make selective cuts rather than an across-the-board reduction in state spending.
"I’m not terribly wild about across-the-board cuts because I think that while they may be easy, they’re not necessarily fair," Rants says. "You need to make smarter decisions."
Rants says former Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, made smart decisions in 2001 and 2002 during the previous recession and called legislators back into special session, twice, to reduce the state spending plan when state tax revenues kept falling. Rants was a Republican legislative leader back then.
Another likely 2010 Republican candidate for governor has challenged Culver’s view of the budget situation, too.
"Chet Culver’s irresponsible, out-of-control spending (has) left state government with a deficit or just pushed it to the very edge. He needs to make a resolution to change his ways," Bob Vander Plaats said today in a prepared statement. "I realize that traditional New Year’s resolutions come on January 1, but the fiscal year starts today. Besides, because of Chet Culver’s irresponsible handling of the budget, we can’t afford to wait another minute for him to start a healthier fiscal regimen."