The governor’s office and the leader of the union representing the largest share of state workers are blaming each other for problems within the prison system. Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, claims the nine correctional facilities around the state are suffering from “extreme understaffing.”
He’s calling for a special legislative session to address the matter. Republican Governor Branstad’s spokesman, Tim Albrecht, says Homan helped create the problem when his union negotiated “massive salary increases” with then Governor Chet Culver.
“Danny Homan sat silent on the sidelines as Governor Culver and legislative Democrats slashed funding for corrections by millions of dollars,” Albrecht told Radio Iowa. “Now, after years of reckless and irresponsible budgeting by Governor Culver, and millions in unsustainable pay raises, he wants to grandstand and take political cheap shots.”
Homan disputes Albrecht’s use of the word “massive” in conjunction with the pay raises. “The majority of state employees that this union bargained for got a two-percent raise on July 1 and will get a one-percent raise on January 1. That’s not massive,” Homan said. He notes that Governor Branstad gave that same pay raise to his management and exempt employees.
Homan asked, “If he has such a problem with that massive wage increase – as he wants to call it – why the hell is he giving it to everybody else?” Albrecht says Branstad increased funding to corrections by $25 million, after years of “severe cuts” by the Culver administration. He claims the governor’s action prevented hundreds of layoffs at prisons.
“Unfortunately, this financial mess was caused by Danny Homan himself, who forced a massive $30 million salary increase over the next two years in corrections alone with the sweetheart deal he cut with outgoing Governor Chet Culver,” Albrecht said. Homan says Branstad “needs to stop blaming workers for his failed policies.”
“Chet Culver did a 10% across the board (budget) cut. We didn’t layoff a single person in the AFSCME bargaining units during that period,” Homan said. “So, I don’t know what (Albrecht) is talking about, other than they’re trying to profess that Governor Branstad is some sort of savior. He ain’t.”
Homan claims gang activity at the prison in Clarinda “is through the roof” and he worries it’s only a matter of time before “something very serious happens” in one of the state’s prisons because of understaffing. Homan says, to make matters worse, Iowa Corrections Director John Baldwin has banned overtime for prison staffers.