The governor’s office today released copies of 160 different news articles about the prospect of a state government shut-down if legislators and the governor cannot strike a deal on state spending.
The next state budgeting year begins July 1st and officials with AFSCME — the union representing the largest share of state workers — filed an “open records” request, asking for all documents in the governor’s office which outlined how state government would operate during a shut-down.
“There is no shut down plan and there is no shut down document,” says Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Governor Branstad.
Albrecht spoke with reporters early this afternoon.
“We are not discussing specifics as of yet because we don’t know exactly what that is going to look like,” he said.
The data released today comes from the “clip file” staff in the governor’s office compile of stories that appear in the media. It also includes newsletter articles written by legislators. There are no “documents” in the governor’s office that outline a possible state government shut-down according to Albrecht.
“There are a number of different options that we can explore and are exploring, but in terms of a specific plan that’s been put together, no we don’t believe it needs to,” Albrecht said. “We believe the legislature will come together and come to a budget agreement on or before June 30 just as they have every single year that anyone can remember.”
Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said it’s “really irresponbile” for the Republican governor to fail to release a plan about a state government shut-down that might be coming soon.
“People all over Iowa are worried. State workers are worried…There are a lot of people who rely on the state government and I think it’s an easy thing to run against government…but in fact Iowans and their government intersect at multiple points that they’re not really going to think about until that government shuts down,” Dvorsky told reporters late this morning. “I hope that that doesn’t happen, but I’m really quite concerned that they’re not preparing for it.”
Albrecht, the governor’s spokesman, said Branstad is optimistic legislators can pass a budget by June 30, but if they don’t, the governor is ready to act.
“Our intention is to keep government open on July 1,” Albrecht said. “Governor Branstad has broad executive powers to do so.”
The chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party suggested that’s not good enough. Dvorsky said there are a variety of things Iowans should be told, like whether summer school at the state universities will continue or if foster care parents will be paid the stipend they receive from the state.
“This is a governor with a transparency advisor, so give him some advise and be transparent,” Dvorsky said. “If they’re not planning for it, I think that’s worrisome, too.”
The governor’s spokesman said the Branstad Administration is laying plans.
“The health, safety and well-being of Iowans will not be compromised,” Albrecht said. “We are working with the Department of Management, other state officials to make sure that government remains open after July 1st under these emergency powers.”
Dvorsky said Branstad owes it to Iowans to announce which state government services are considered essential in maintaining the “health, safety and well-being” of Iowans. She pointed to Minnesota, where that state’s governor has announced, for example, that state parks would be closed if the stalemate over Minnesota’s budget that isn’t resolved.
“A working set of parents who has got a campground at a state park over the 4th of July weekend, that’s essential to them if that’s their summer vacation,” Dvorsky said. “And I can’t imagine that’s something that’s not going to be hit.”
Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, defends Branstad. “One thing that the governor has made very clear is that any of those essential services that Iowans rely upon will be there for them,” Strawn said late this morning. “But I would encourage all Iowans to make sure they’re calling their senators right now, saying to vote for an honest, open budget that doesn’t spend more than it takes in.” Democrats control the Iowa Senate.
Early this week Minnesota’s governor unveiled a plan for how Minnesota state government would operate after July 1, as there’s a similar stalemate in that state over the state budget. The State of Minnesota sent layoff notices to 36,000 state employees last Friday.
(This story was updated with additional information at 2;01 p.m.)