Legislators have crafted a bipartisan fix to the dilemma created by an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that nullified parts of the budget for the state Workforce Development agency. It was a side-effect of the court’s decision that Governor Branstad overstepped his line item veto authority to rejecting legislators’ intent to keep 36 regional Workforce Development offices open. Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, says lawmakers had a limited timeline to deal with the fall-out.
“This is good work,” Hall says. “It’s what people throughout Iowa, people in my district are clamoring for.”
Earlier this week the Iowa Senate approved this bipartisan, stop-gap measure to keep the agency operaing through June 30 and the Iowa House approved the plan Thursday afternoon. The debate now shifts to how many offices the state should keep open around the state to provide job counseling services to out-of-work Iowans. Representative Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, says those offices have been financed with a combination of state and federal funds — and the state can’t afford to keep three dozen regional offices open anymore.
“We’re one calendar year farther along,” Schultz says. “There is even less federal money this time.”
Democrats like Representative Hall say they’ll push to at least reopen offices in key areas like Ames, Newton, Pella and Denison.
“It’s something that will provide people who are unemployed or underemployed and looking for work the opportunity to meet face-to-face with somebody to look for better options,” Hall says.
But Governor Branstad touts the new online services available through the Workforce Development agency’s website for job hunters — Branstad’s move after he ordered the regional offices closed — plus the late night and weekend hours state-paid job counselors are now available by phone. Representative Schultz says reopening any of the close regional offices isn’t part of the GOP’s plan for next year.
“Federal money was drying up. It ended up it was not enough,” Schultz says. “And we were only looking for one more year out of these field offices anyway.”
A woman from Denison who lost her job when the Workforce Development office there closed last year is the Democrat running against Schultz in November.