What to cut from state budget? For a start, cut state employees' pay

House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen has a guest editorial in the Des Moines Register today:

budgetcutsGov. Chet Culver and legislative Democrats have a spending problem. They spent too much and cut too little. As a result of this self-created crisis, the governor forced his hand and ordered a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut – an across-the-board cut that was almost entirely avoidable. These cuts are the result of two things: bad planning and back-room decisions in the middle of the night.

Republicans began sounding the alarm back in the spring of 2007 with warnings about overspending by the state. Those calls continued through 2008, when we opposed ridiculous pork-barrel spending projects like flowerpots for Des Moines and a train station where no train arrived or departed. During the 2009 session, Republicans offered reasonable and responsible amendments totaling over $330 million in spending reductions. Each year, Democrats either opposed or ignored our efforts.

Regardless, Republicans again come to the table today to offer ideas on how to roll back government spending and end the reckless spend-and-borrow agenda infecting the state Capitol.

Republicans suggest that we eliminate pork spending and adopt the spending cuts originally offered during the 2009 legislative session. They include saving $72.5 million by having the governor negotiate a pay reduction for state employees, union and non-union, on a sliding scale and including elected officials. The smallest would be a 2 percent cut for those making $40,000 and under and the largest would be 10 percent for those making at least $100,000. It is similar to the plan Principal Financial Group implemented earlier this year.

We should also sell most of the state general purpose vehicle fleet and outsource this function. This brings a one-time infusion of $18 million to the state and an ongoing savings of $18 million per year.

Combining all the state’s technology systems, including the six different e-mail systems, was estimated to save $20 million last spring. The reorganization consultants hired by the governor estimate the savings to be three times that. Regardless, let’s stop talking about it and do it.

A painless saving offered by Republicans but summarily rejected was eliminating phantom employees. Simply halting the practice of funding non-existent employees could save the state $25 million.

Next, Republicans call attention to the budget initiatives we introduced in August including constitutional protection for the state’s 99 percent spending-limitation law. The current budget limitation law doesn’t work. Just last year, Democrats authorized nearly 70 loopholes or exceptions to the current law.

This year, Democrats put taxpayers on the hook for $1.7 billion in debt. The average Iowa family’s share of that debt is more than $2,000. Iowa Republicans propose requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote of both houses of the Legislature to authorize new state borrowing. It’s done at the local level, and it should be done similarly at the state level.

Iowa Republicans propose a systematic process wherein every program funded by state government will sunset (de-authorize) by a defined date unless the governor and Legislature reauthorize that program. This will force a thorough top-to-bottom review of every existing program funded by state government to determine whether the program is meeting the needs for which it was created, or if the need still exists.

All of these ideas can be found on our Web site at www.iowahouserepublicans.com.

When Republicans last controlled the Iowa House the state budget totaled $5.3 billion. To many of us, that was too much spending. In three years, Democrats exploded that total to $6.3 billion. Are you $1 billion better off than you were three years ago? Even after the 10 percent across the board cut, the state’s general fund spending is still over $5.7 billion.

Obviously, the recession has slowed state revenue. However, enacting the largest amount of spending in the history of Iowa, in the middle of a recession, was a bad plan and has created a huge mess. To paraphrase an oft repeated quote, a million here and a million there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

(Source: Des Moines Register)

  • Don Elliott

    I would like to know more about the state funding of
    phantom employees by the state of IOWA.

  • Don Elliott

    The state shure has taken a turn for the worst in the last 3 years. I think it started with VILSAK and has snowballed sence then. We have been in defficite every sence Weres the money go TOMMY and Culver and the Dems in the last three years have really screwed the puch.so to speak. I don’t even want to raise my Children here Iowa has become more dangerous. Its becoming SanFansisco or Detroit. What a waste.

  • JasonC

    Phantom employees or vacant, funded FTE (full-time equivalent) positions are positions that are funded but have been left vacant so the department can use the money for some other purpose.

    There is now a document in our Issues of Interest section that is a summary of how many phantom employees are in each department prior to the across the board 10% cut. You can find that document here: http://iowahouserepublicans.com/issues-of-interest/budget