It sounds as if Governor Branstad will appeal a Polk County judge’s ruling on the governor’s line-item veto that led to the closure of 36 Iowa Workforce Development offices. The judge ruled Branstad’s action to be unconstitutional because he attempted to redirect money through the line-item veto.
The governor’s spokesman, Tim Albrecht, says Branstad “respectfully disagrees” with the ruling. “We knew from the get-go, regardless of how the district court was going to rule, that this was absolutely going to be decided by the Iowa Supreme Court. So, this is only the first step in this process,” Albrecht said.
Five legislative Democrats and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed the lawsuit. AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan hoped the judge’s ruling would lead to the reopening of the Iowa Workforce Development offices, but he anticipates Branstad will appeal.
“It would appear that’s where we’re heading,” Homan said. “That would be a shame for not only the unemployed folks, but also for the citizens of the state because we’re continuing to waste taxpayer money to defend his illegal veto.” Branstad said his decision to close the IWD offices would save the state $6.5 million a year.
Albrecht says the offices have been replaced by a “much more efficient” system involving computer stations in libraries, homeless shelters and other locations. “We’ve also offered Saturday hours, which were unavailable before. We have access points that are open, in some cases, 14 hours a day,” Albrecht said.
Homan rejects Albrecht’s “improved efficiency” claim. He says the one-on-one assistance previously offered was more effective. “A computer can’t give them suggestions how to improve their interview tactics or how to improve their job writing skills,” Homan said.
Albrecht says the offices will remain closed during any potential appeal process. “These offices were an archaic relic of the 21st century that no longer serve the needs of those unemployed in Iowa,” Albrecht said.
Homan claims the computer-based system is unreliable and confusing for many job seekers. “A lot of folks…have been going into these sites and they’re stuck back in a corner and most of the people don’t even know how to turn (the computers) on or they have problems logging on,” Homan said. “If that’s an effective system, I find it to be very troublesome.”