Governor Terry Branstad is laying plans to undo at least half of the $84-million in state budget cuts former Governor Chet Culver ordered two weeks ago. It means Branstad and other Republicans in the legislature may be forced to spend more rather than reduce the size of the current year’s state budget.
“First of all, you’ve got to recognize where you are,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “You’re over halfway through the fiscal year and so that limits your options on what you can do.” Before he took office Branstad indicated he may fire many of the state workers who’ve been hired in the past six months, as they’re still in their initial probationary period of employment.
Branstad wants to keep workers hired for critical positions, like prison guards or staff at the state’s Mental Health Institutes. But others who’ve landed a state job in areas outside of the state agencies that provide public safety or direct care to needy Iowans may get a pink slip.
“I can’t help what’s happened in the past but I came here to correct this mess and to straighten out the financial situation in this state and make sure that we have a sustainable budget for the long-term,” Branstad said this morning during a news conference in his statehouse office. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing and it’s going to be somewhat painful and I want to be very honest and open and upfront with people. That’s just the situation we have to deal with, but are going to try to do it in the most fair and thoughtful and humane way possible — but we are going to do it.”
Republicans in the Iowa House intend to debate a bill tomorrow which would cut about six-and-a-half million from the current year’s state budget. The plan would cut more than 345 million over the next three years.
Branstad says he has asked Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to oversee the shut-down of the Rebuild Iowa Office. The office was established after the flooding that struck the state in 2008, but the agency is scheduled to shut down on June 30th of this year. Reynolds says she wants to ensure the state’s better prepared for future disasters.
“In addition to that, integrating local and state planning to make sure that there’s not duplication, that we’re working together to meet the needs of future disasters,” Reynolds says, “and also better coordinating flood plain and watershed management.” The director of the Rebuild Iowa Office has resigned, and Reynolds says there may be other budget savings as activity in the agency dwindles over the next few months.
Listen to the entire news conference here: Branstad 21:27 MP3