Republican Governor Terry Branstad is hinting he may veto a bill passed in the closing hours of the 2014 Iowa legislative session that would pay off millions of state debts, but would finance what Branstad argues are “pet projects” for legislators.
None of Branstad’s fellow Republicans raised concerns when the bill passed the Republican-led House 97-to-zero back on May 1. Shortly after that, House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake said this: “We’ve shown Iowans that we can keep our commitments to common sense budgeting principles and, as a result, we are spending less than we take in.”
The bill Branstad has criticized would take $60 million from the state surplus to pay off bonds that financed a variety of “Vision Iowa” construction projects around the state a decade ago. In addition, the bill calls for spending another $80 million on a variety of projects, like nearly $4 million for renovations at the State Historical Building. There’s $2 million more in the bill for the Low Income Heat and Energy Assistant program, something Democrats like Senator Bob Dvorsky of Coralville had pushed for this year.
“As you know we’ve unfortunately broken records for spending a lot on LiHEAP this really cold winter,” Dvorsky said when the bill passed the Senate 26-24 on May 1.
The bill calls for tens of millions of dollars of spending on construction projects on the three state-university campuses, too. Branstad questions the timing of the legislation.
“They passed a bill that nobody saw ’til past midnight the last night of the session,” Branstad said this week.
Branstad also suggested the bill is deceptive because it outlines spending for several budgeting years, not just the one that starts July 1st, “which basically misleads the public as to the level of spending and I find that also to be something that we need to be very concerned about,” Branstad said.
Branstad has until June 2 to decide whether to sign or veto bills passed by the 2014 Iowa legislature. The governor does have item veto authority on budget bills, so Branstad can cancel out some spending proposals within bills.