"Overpaid" is in the eye of the beholder (updated)

Governor Terry Branstad begrudges the working poor a little extra money and wants to cut total compensation for thousands of state employees, whom he considers overpaid. But where his favorite appointees are concerned, Branstad uses bonuses or a housing allowance to evade salary caps on senior positions in state government.

Erin Jordan has the details in two must-read articles for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Highlights are after the jump.

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A new job for Rod Roberts and other Branstad appointment news

Governor-elect Terry Branstad announced today that former State Representative Rod Roberts will head the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals in the next administration. Roberts gave up his seat after six five terms in the Iowa House to run for governor. He won about 9 percent of the vote in the Republican primary. I believe his candidacy helped Branstad by attracting social conservatives who might otherwise have consolidated behind Bob Vander Plaats.

Branstad and other Republicans have criticized Dean Lerner, the head of the inspections and appeals department in Chet Culver’s administration. They claim state inspectors have been too tough on businesses, particularly nursing home owners. The nursing home industry already gets most of what it wants from state legislators, and will cheer Roberts’ appointment. I am skeptical that Branstad plans to improve on his dismal record of nursing home regulation.

UPDATE: Clark Kauffman reported in the Des Moines Register on December 9,

Roberts, 53, told The Des Moines Register Wednesday that he didn’t apply for the job. Instead, he said Branstad contacted him shortly after the election and offered him the job. […]

Roberts said his 10 years of experience as a lawmaker will help him lead the agency, although he acknowledged he faces a steep learning curve because he has no staff management or regulatory experience.

Roberts also said he would not have any conflicts of interests – despite ties that he and his wife have to facilities that are inspected and regulated by the employees he will supervise.

Roberts has served on the boards that govern the New Hope Village care center in Carroll and its charitable foundation.

His wife, Patricia Roberts, is director of development for the foundation that provides financial support for St. Anthony Regional Hospital and Nursing Home in Carroll.

Kathie Obradovich argues that Roberts should “pledge to have no part in any regulation of operations where he has personal ties and relationships. Staff members should handle it.”

Also on December 8, Branstad named Teresa Wahlert as his choice to head Iowa Workforce Development. She is a past president of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and a member Iowa Business Hall of Fame who informally advised Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign.

Finally, Branstad announced that Courtney Kay-Decker will head the Iowa Department of Revenue. Kay-Decker is a Davenport attorney who was a member of the Iowa State Tax Review Board from 2000 to 2007.

Press releases with background on the three latest Branstad appointees are after the jump. I expect the Iowa Senate to confirm them all.

Meanwhile, outgoing Governor Culver was in Washington recently. Culver told the trade publication North American Windpower that he met with members of Congress to advocate for legislation to promote renewable energy. Presumably some job-hunting was going on as well.

For the near term, Culver will focus on completing the five weeks he has remaining as Iowa governor. After that, he will begin weighing his options. He wants to stay involved with either a wind energy company or a public interest group, adding that he would rather focus his energy on the task at hand rather than dwelling on the November defeat.

Culver chaired the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition and lobbied Congress for a strong renewable electricity standard while the federal climate change bill was being debated. I don’t expect any progress on promoting renewable energy at the federal level, especially now that Republicans will control the House of Representatives. The tenative tax cut deal President Barack Obama struck with Republican leaders includes extending biofuels subsidies but not tax credits for wind or solar power.

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