Governor Chet Culver says his Republican opponent has kept his specific plans for cutting the state budget by 15 percent secret because if Terry Branstad’s proposals were revealed, Culver says Branstad would lose the election.
“There shouldn’t be anything secret about it,” Culver says. “It’s a responsibility a candidate has, running for office. Tell us what your plans are.”
According to Culver, the only specific cut Branstad has revealed is worth $90 million, as Branstad has pledged to undo Culver’s plan to provide free preschool in Iowa’s public school districts. “He still needs to tell us where the other $710 million in cuts is going to come from, so there shouldn’t be anything secret about this. Terry Branstad just needs to tell the truth about his plan to cut the budget 15 percent,” Culver says.
“It’s not that complicated and I’m amazed, quite frankly, that he’s gotten away with talking about a 15 percent budget cut for 12 months now without having to explain where that cut’s going to be implemented.”
Culver met early this afternoon with a group of state union workers who are members of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, says Branstad’s focus appears to be on “numbers on a spread sheet” rather than on the services state government must provide.
“If there’s a 15 percent cut, again, in state government after what we’ve already gone through, we cannot provide the services that we are providing to the citizens of this state,” Homan says. “It will have a dramatic effect on that’s done.”
Homan says Branstad is “setting the stage” for cutting the pay and benefits of state workers. “Quite frankly, I find it appalling that a man who is running for office is already trying to pick a fight with the state employees,” Homan says.
A spokesman for Branstad notes today is the one-year anniversary of Culver’s executive order which cut the state budget by 10 percent. “Chet Culver’s across-the-board cut caused budget chaos, massive disruption of services and furloughs for state employees,” said Branstad campaign manager Jeff Boeyink. “On the first anniversary of this cut, he is desperately hoping state employees will forget. Their memories will last a lot longer than that.”
According to Boeyink, Branstad will take a “thoughtful approach” to reducing the size of state government by 15 percent over the next five years if he’s reelected governor.
During this afternoon’s forum, a handful of AFSCME union members were invited to give their estimate on how a 15 percent cut would impact the state agency in which they work. One woman who works at the University of Northern Iowa predicted tuition rates would rise; another predicted the entire state would have to “shut down” if there’s another rough winter and snow plow drivers are limited in the amount of overtime they can work.
(This story was updated at 3:20 p.m.)