Governor Branstad is recommending that state support of K-through-12 public schools remain at the same level for the next two academic years. Branstad will formally present his proposed state budget outline to legislators on Thursday.
“It’s going to be an austere budget and there’s a lot of people going to be concerned that there’s not more money,” Branstad says. “But that’s the facts.” Branstad plans to present not just a one-year, but a two-year budget plan to lawmakers. The governor wants to give his new state agency directors wider latitude in making budget decisions within each department.
Branstad says that’s because those agency directors are going to have to make cuts, and lay off workers this summer, because Branstad isn’t going to set aside money to cover the pay raises former Governor Culver agreed to last month. “We think by making the tough decision up front, now, we position ourselves to be in a much stronger and better position down the road,” Branstad says.
In addition, Branstad has put a hold on state agency requests to hire 500 workers. Before he took office, Branstad indicated hundreds of other state workers who’ve been on the payroll for less than six months may be fired. Today, a reporter asked Branstad when those workers would get a pink slip.
“Well, let’s put it this way: we’ve already told departments and agencies to stop the hiring,” Branstad said during a news conference in his statehouse office. “A thousand people have been hired since July 1; another 500 in the process. We can’t sustain or support this.” Branstad told reporters he doesn’t believe in “micromanaging” so it’s up to each agency director to come up with layoff plans for those recently hired workers.
“There’s not going to be any ax, and it’s not going to fall,” Branstad said. “Instead, we’re going to take a very thoughtful approach and determine, ‘What are those things that we need to do?’ We’re going to try to avoid unintended consequences.” Branstad will give a formal speech to legislators on Thursday, outlining his budget sketch.
For example, Branstad plans to recommend turning down federal funds for a high-speed rail line from Davenport to Iowa City. Branstad says he doesn’t want the state involved in providing the “on-going subsidy” for passenger rail service that would be required.
Listen to Branstands news conference here: Branstad Jan 24 27:38 MP3