The Republican state auditor is giving Iowa’s Republican governor and legislators from both parties “high marks” for the state budget plan enacted this summer. But while Republicans claimed the state now is spending less than it collects in taxes, State Auditor Dave Vaudt says his review shows otherwise and the entire budget plan is larger than last year’s.

“It’s taken us several years to get into the financial condition that we’re in today,” Vaudt says. “We’ve dug a deep hole and it’s going to take several years for us to actually climb back out.” According to Vaudt, the state is spending $1.04 for every dollar the state collects in taxes and lawmakers used $53- million  in one-time money to pay for on-going expenses, a practice Vaudt has railed against for years.

Still, Vaudt says the ship of state has been “turned around” with the budget that legislators and the governor quarreled over for the first six months of the year. “I think it’s a clear win for the taxpayers of Iowa. Congratulations to the governor and to the legislators of both parties that it took to actually do this,” Vaudt says. “It took a lot longer than most of us wanted it to, but I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

Vaudt endorsed Terry Branstad in May of 2010, before Branstad won the Republican primary for governor. The auditor says numbers are numbers and the final budget plan is the work of a Republican-led House, a Democratically-led Senate and the Republican governor.

“Are they all the way there? No. Are they a long ways there? They made a huge step in the right direction,” Vaudt says. “But the challenges lying ahead with the federal government financial assistance and stuff will make it even more challenging, so we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of discipline is going to have to be exercised over the next several years.”

Governor Branstad says he’s willing to accept the “constructive criticism” from the auditor. “I don’t know that we solved all the problems,” Branstad says. “But I think we solved most of them and we’ve got the state on the right track.” Vaudt’s review indicates the State of Iowa will spend $6.4-billion in the current budgeting year.