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Iowa Politics Roundup: State Auditor Sees Flaws in Culver’s Budget PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 12 February 2010 14:06

Governor Chet Culver's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011 exceeds the state's 99-percent spending limitation and fails to address roughly $400 million in state costs, State Auditor David Vaudt said this week.

"He's actually spending $25 million more than the expenditure limitation, rather than the $61 million under the spending limitation that he presents in his budget document," said Vaudt, a Republican. "The governor's budget numbers just don't add up."

Culver defended his proposed budget, maintaining that it's balanced and spends less in his fourth year in office than when he began his term as governor in 2007.

"The bottom line is the budget I submitted to the legislature was smaller than the one that I inherited," Culver said in an interview with reporters. "So we are reducing the size of government, we're making it more lean, we're making it more efficient."

Vaudt said Culver's budget relies on $341 million in savings proposed by consultant Public Works of Philadelphia, but a nonpartisan analysis shows the savings will be far less. Even if all of the consultant's cost-saving recommendations are implemented, Vaudt said $83 million - or almost 25 percent - will have no impact on the state general fund.

"You can't include savings from other funds in your calculation of what you're going to save in the general fund," Vaudt said.

Vaudt declined to outline legal ramifications for violating the spending limitation in state law, although he said he'd be sharing the information with the attorney general's office. He pointed out that last year, Culver had to revise his budget proposal after there was a change in state revenues.

Vaudt said Culver's proposed budget underfunds school aid, state-worker pay raises, and unpaid leave days - which could result in property-tax increases, additional furloughs, and layoffs.

Vaudt said it would cost the state approximately $2.7 billion to fully fund the 2-percent allowable growth in school spending, but the governor only provides $2.4 billion - about $270 million short.

"There is a very good likelihood that if the schools can't do additional cuts, ... we'll see it in the form of higher property taxes," Vaudt said.

Lawmakers Work to Regulate Corporate Campaign Ads

The Iowa legislature is moving quickly to regulate corporate spending in elections following the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed such spending, but a package of new regulations proposed by Democrats is getting a chilly response from Republicans.

"It appears on the surface to be a bill that would literally make it impossible for corporations to participate by placing onerous burdens on them," said Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton).

Democrats said Thursday that they're trying to craft the strongest campaign law in the nation regulating corporate spending.

"Iowa will continue its reputation for clean politics," said Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls). "We believe that transparency and disclosure equal accountability in the political process."

Danielson said the legislation is even more important given Iowa's status of having the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

"We tend to be a testing ground for these new political activities. There's a lot of interest in Iowa politics," he said. "And we have to lead when it comes to strengthening our laws so that the average, everyday Iowa citizen's voice can still be heard in that process."

The bill in its final form is expected to:

  • Prohibit foreign-controlled companies from playing any role in Iowa elections.
  • Require board, CEO, or stockholder approval before a corporation can use funds for independent expenditures.
  • Require additional reporting of receipts and independent expenditures by corporations engaged in independent campaign activities.
  • Require disclaimers on advertisements paid for by corporations.
  • Bar collusion by corporate donors and political candidates and prohibit them from using the same consultants, advertising firms, and campaign advisers.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) said this legislation comes after Democrats consulted with Charlie Smithson, director of the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board, and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. He said the idea is to pass legislation that will withstand any legal challenge.

"The one bright spot in the Supreme Court decision was it seems to strengthen our hand in our ability to require disclosure," Gronstal said.