Chris Hall

A top-ranking Democrat in the Iowa House is suing Governor Kim Reynolds and her budget director, accusing the two of “misusing” state tax dollars to cover a state budget deficit. A spokeswoman for Reynolds suggests the lawsuit is “politically motivated.”

Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City is the top Democrat on the Iowa House Appropriations Committee. Hall is accusing Governor Reynolds of illegally transferring $13 million from the state’s Economic Emergency Fund at the end of September. Reynolds moved the money to cover red ink in the state General Fund for the budget year that ended June 30, 2017.

Hall says the state budget deficit was caused by “years of fiscal mismanagement” and didn’t meet the law’s requirement that withdrawals from the Economic Emergency Fund happen during a downturn in the state’s overall economy.

“To protect taxpayers from having our economic reserves being spent down in a time when there’s not a true economic emergency,” Hall says.

Hall’s lawsuit argues Reynolds had other legal options, like calling the legislature back into special session to fix the budget.

“As lawmakers, we have an obligation to protect taxpayers and make sure any spending of those dollars is accountable and being spent according to the law,” Hall says.

Brenna Smith, a spokeswoman for Governor Reynolds, says this “is a political lawsuit.” The governor’s spokeswoman says “everyone agrees the state budget needs to be balanced — which it now is.” And Smith added that legislators are “free to change the outdated transfer” law and the governor would “encourage them to do so.”

Hall says the transfer laws should be updated, but until that update’s done, the current law must be followed.

“The legislature has an obligation to correct that and to hold the executive branch accountable,” Hall says.

Hall’s lawsuit was filed today and names both Governor Reynolds as well as Iowa Department of Management director Dave Roederer as defendants.