Governor Pays Consultant to do what House Republicans Have Done for No Charge

On August 25, the Governor announced that he will pay $300,000 to an out-of-state consulting firm to find new budget savings. The Governor also promised an open process, including seeking public input.

House Republicans quickly pointed out that instead of spending $300,000 of tax money to pay a an out-of-state consultant, the Governor should take advantage of all of the hard work by Republicans earlier this year. In March, Republicans launched a website to gather Iowans’ input on cost-saving measures. Soon after, House Republicans offered these suggestions, among others, such as selling part of the state vehicle fleet and reducing office supplies, which were nearly all rejected by Legislative Democrats.

“Governor Culver is spending money to find solutions that we offered in April,” said House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen. “House Republicans’ list of savings would have increased transparency, brought more accountability to budgeting and reduced unnecessary spending.”

The firm Culver’s administration tapped to find new savings this fall – Public Works of Philadelphia – is one Culver has used before. The governor hired a subsidiary, Brainstorm Campaign Policy Group, as a policy adviser when he ran for governor. The company’s contract calls for it to be paid $300,000 to find new savings based on targets that were still being finalized. It will be interesting to see if the Governor’s consultants offered any or all of the same suggestions House Republicans offered last spring. Equally interesting will be if the firm wants to be paid for offering those same suggestions.

During the 2009 session, House Republicans offered amendments that would have reduced spending by over $300 million. Here are the amendments that were offered and rejected by the Democrats:

  • Eliminate “phantom employees” – funded, unfilled FTE positions
  • Do “Principal Plan” – require Governor to negotiate a pay reduction for all employees – sliding scale of 2% cut for $40K to 10% cut for over $100K – apply to all non-union, all branches, including legislators and the Governor
  • Charge state employees a monthly fee for health insurance premiums – HAWK-I pays $10 per month, charge state employees $50 per month for health insurance
  • Sell the fleet, outsource vehicle leasing – one-time infusion due to sale, ongoing savings of $18 million minus the money for leasing vehicles
  • Reduce office supplies, service contracts, equipment purchases
  • Combine all state information technology systems including combining the 6 different email systems
  • Sell or lease the Iowa Communications Network
  • Reduce funding for Library acquisitions at Regents by 50 percent
  • No DNR land acquisition for FY 2010
  • Freeze out of state travel (allow a waiver process via Executive Council for critical functions
  • Eliminate “extras” on existing state vehicle purchases including bug shields, stereos, GPS systems and other add-ons
  • Archiving Iowa Governor’s Records — Reduce by 50 percent
  • Eliminate Washington, DC Internship (seek private funding)
  • Eliminate miscellaneous expenses for DOT garage in Rockwell City
  • Eliminate charter flights by members of the DOT commission
  • End printing of annual reports – require them to be emailed
  • Suspend per diem for ex officio members on boards and commissions
  • Require all employees to turn in receipts for meal expenses

House Republicans believe that eliminating unnecessary programs and duplication of services is a better way to trim the budget than an across the board cut. However, the Governor has hinted that an across the board cut is coming this fall. Instead of cutting across the board, the Governor should look at the ideas proposed by House Republicans and eliminate programs.