State Auditor Dave Vaudt says the state budget outline Governor Bransad presented legislators nearly a month ago makes progress on a number of fronts, but Vaudt still sees a few pitfalls in the plan.  

“Even with the improvements that he’s made — he’s made a huge reduction in the reliance on one-time funds and so forth — but even with the proposal that he’s put forward, there’s a few concerns,” Vaudt says. 

Vaudt, a Republican, endorsed Branstad’s bid for a fifth term as governor last May and campaigned with Branstad extensively. Vaudt says Branstad has done more than Democrat Chet Culver did as governor in making longer-range budget plans, but Vaudt says Branstad and his staff are counting on a roughly 10 percent increase in state collections over the next two years to fuel state spending plans.

“And obviously, my concern is they might be too optimistic,” Vaudt says, “and if they are, that could have some impacts on whether we might have to do budget cuts down the road.”

 Vaudt was a frequent critic of the state budgets previous Democratic Governors Culver and Vilsack drafted. Vaudt gives Branstad high marks for proposing cuts in “selected areas” of the budget and for using far fewer one-time sources of revenue for routine state operations. 

 But Vaudt says five years from now, Branstad’s plan still would see the state spend more than it collects in taxes. “Which tells us, even on a long-term basis, we still have some improvements we need to make in order to bring ourselves into a truly balanced budget going forward,” Vaudt says.

Vaudt concludes the state budget outline Branstad presented legislators in late January would spend half a percent more than the current year. Democrats in the Iowa Senate released a sketch of their overall state spending goals late yesterday, saying it spends about $16 million less than Branstad’s plan.