Governor Terry Branstad says he hopes to quickly resolve the dilemmas in a state agency that were created by the Iowa Supreme Court ruling that declared Branstad’s item veto in the Iowa Workforce Development agency’s budget was unconstitutional.
“My responsibility as the chief executive is to deliver services to the people of Iowa and try to do it in the most efficient and economical way, but provide the best possible services,” Branstad said this morning during his weekly statehouse news conference. “We want to avoid disruption…so there will not have to be massive layoffs or disruption in services in Workforce Development.”
The court’s decision was released Friday. It knocked out the budget plan for key parts of the agency as well as the disputed section that dealt with 36 regional Workforce Development offices that provided help to unemployed Iowans. Branstad had item vetoed the money for those offices and they were closed last year.
“You can’t recreate the past and it doesn’t make any sense to try to recreate the past,” Branstad said. “Many of these leases have, you know, expired and, in fact, we have a better system which is more efficient and providing better services and more access points.”
Workforce Development officials set up an on-line system with “access points” in public libraries, community colleges, National Guard armories and other public sites. Workforce Development counselors are also available by phone on nights and on Saturdays to help out-of-work Iowans who’re searching for a job. Still, some Democrats have said they want to reopen at least some of the 36 regional Workforce Development offices. Branstad’s not ready to indicate whether that’s something he’d approve as part of the emergency fix-it package for the agency.
“I’m not going to try to go into the details of that,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “I’m just saying that the present system that we put in place is better and more efficient, has more access points, and it’s available evenings and weekends and I don’t want to see us go backwards, but I do want to work with the legislature to make sure that we have something that’s more efficient and economical and that administratively can be managed with the resources provided.”
AUDIO of Branstad’s news conference.
According to Branstad, one reason he used his item veto authority to reject the legislature’s decision to keep those 36 offices open was because there wasn’t enough state and federal money available in the budget plan to keep all those offices open. Workforce Development is run with a combination of state and federal funds, as it’s the agency that manages services to unemployed Iowans, including those who get unemployment benefits.
“There’s a requirement there be state match for the federal dollars, and that was part of the problem also last year is ’cause federal dollars had been reduced, so that’s why we couldn’t afford to keep open all these offices because we didn’t have the money, both federal and state, to be able to do that,” Branstad said.
Branstad has filed a motion with the court, hoping to get a “stay” or delay from the court that will give him and lawmakers time to come up with a budget plan for the state Workforce Development agency before the ruling takes effect.
“We think it’s important to continue to move forward and we want to work with the legislature to restore the funding,” Branstad said.
The salaries for more than 200 state workers are covered in the section of the budget that was nullified by the Supreme Court’s decision. Some of those workers handle unemployment checks. The state’s budgeting year will enter its ninth month in April. Branstad anticipates the emergency budget plan that would cover operations of the Workforce Development agency for the next three months would spend the same amount of money that was set aside last June for the 12-month fiscal year.