Weekend open thread with links on the budget

This thread is for any topic that’s on your mind this weekend.

After the jump I’ve posted a bunch of links on the big story of the week in Iowa: the preliminary plans for implementing the 10 percent across-the-board cut in current-year spending that Governor Chet Culver recently ordered.

Yes, the cuts are going to hurt:

The preliminary plans include a proposed reduction of 1,321 state government positions, including 791 layoffs and eliminating 529 vacant positions. The plans released today do not include the Board of Regents, statewide elected officials, and the Legislative and Judicial branches. Departmental plans are to be finalized by Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Governor Culver issued the following statement about the preliminary departmental plans:

“It is very important to note that this is the starting line, not the finish line, to implement cuts made necessary by the impact of the national economic recession. As Governor, my obligation is to keep our budget balanced and my goal is to do everything we can to preserve essential services and minimize layoffs.

“During the next seven days, we will review these plans, discuss the impact with the collective bargaining units, and work with our department directors to finalize how we implement these cuts. The plans for each department, in their final form, will become effective upon my approval. I’ve set October 28 as that deadline.

“Like all state departments, the Governor’s office will be cutting its budget by 10 percent and has submitted our own plan. I have decided to take a 10 percent cut in pay, my Chief of Staff has done the same, and our entire staff will take up to seven furlough days.

“I disagree with certain recommendations in these preliminary plans, and I will discuss them with department directors and the collective bargaining units as part of my review. I also want to be certain that there are no inconsistencies between these plans and what our departments are required to do by law.

“In particular, I disagree with some recommendations that cut services to children and vulnerable adults, as well as in areas of public safety. These cuts have a very disproportionate impact on public safety, an area I vowed to protect. For example, two-thirds of layoffs are in the Department of Corrections, which relies almost entirely on support from the General Fund, and I want to find a way to mitigate that situation.”

The Department of Corrections director was shrewd to submit a plan to lay off so many people. Fears about the impact of those job losses on public safety has virtually guaranteed that the Department of Corrections will have some funds restored during the next legislative session. Iowa Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal has warned that very few departments will see any money restored for the current budget year, but big layoffs in corrections put Culver at massive political risk, as Kathie Obradovich noted here.

The Des Moines Register’s blog posted a lot of the department-level plans to reduce spending (scroll down the page).

Todd Dorman discusses the impact of some lower-profile budget cuts:

I’m also  fascinated by the stuff that gets less attention.

Like the fact that the State Library of Iowa is going to stop putting Iowa’s weekly newspapers on microfilm. So there will be a gap in Iowa’s journalistic archives.

And it sound like the gift shop at the Iowa Historical Building is closing. (How many nearly forgotten, last-minute gifts did I buy there when I covered the capitol? Many.)

Iowa Public Television will now  go off the air and midnight, which will cut overnight programs recorded by educators for use in class.

Inflated amusement device inspections will cease. Tobacco compliance checks will happen with less frequency. It will take longer to get a civil rights case resolved.

Economists point out that state government job losses can themselves be a drag on the economy:

“The layoffs in state government, and ultimately in local government, will impinge on Iowa’s recovery efforts,” said David Swenson, an Iowa State University economist.

Iowa could lose up to one private-sector job for every government job lost, said Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha.

The largest, immediate dent is on spending – purchasing homes, TVs, washers and dryers, going to the movies, and eating out, Goss said.

“The cuts have an impact on those workers who lose their jobs, but also on the workers who keep their jobs. They’re sitting there working, wondering ‘Am I next?’ These large layoffs have a chilling effect,” Goss said. “It makes a recovery much more difficult.”

Reduced spending lowers already weak demand for manufactured goods, transportation services and financial products, among other services.

That’s one reason Republicans were wrong to demand deeper spending cuts than the March 2009’s Revenue Estimating Conference numbers indicated would be necessary. In addition, Republicans were wrong to oppose the federal stimulus bill, which included funds to help state governments “backfill” their budgets, reducing potential job losses.

Another big risk is that local governments will raise property taxes in response to funding cuts for school districts and other services. There’s no point in Culver and other Democrats bragging, “We didn’t raise your taxes,” if people’s property taxes are going up. My in-laws lived through that kind of shell game under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.

Then again, teacher layoffs or cuts to valuable programs like pre-school for four-year-olds will hurt too.

I hope legislators don’t bring back TouchPlay lottery machines to raise extra revenue.

Finally, Culver will take a full 10 percent salary cut, as he promised to do.

The floor is yours.

  • big story of the coming week........

    The news that Brad Zaun is approaching the announcement of his campaign for 3rd district seat against Boswell.  The popular Zaun has drawn well with republicans, independents, and in the past has enjoyed significant support from democrats.

    Zaun has the ability to raise money and run aggressive campaigns, so this will be a race to watch.

    • Meanwhile, the urban sprawl continues

      Every time I see the developer realty signs in every Urbandale cornfield west of I-35/80, especially those with Brad Zaun’s name at the bottom, my blood boils a little hotter.  Zaun and Tom Gayman, current city council member, are both with R&R, and the push for new interstate exhanges at both Meredith Drive and 100th Street in Urbandale is coming from, you guessed it, the developers who have the land west of the interstate loop.

      We didn’t live here during Zaun’s tenure as Urbandale mayor and city council member, but I know that he’s incredibly popular in this part of the metro.  I could also see how his square-jawed, youthful looks would contrast favorably with Boswell’s elderly farmer persona favorably.  If he were able to defeat Boswell, he’d be a powerfully tough incumbent to defeat for a long time, especially after re-districting likely makes IA-3 slightly more Republican than it is now.  All the more reason for Boswell to bow out gracefully before 2010 and help elect a Democrat who is more likely to hold the seat after re-districting.

      • Boswell should have retired in 2008

        A presidential year would have been a better time for Ds to defend that open seat. Then we would have had a two-term incumbent going into 2012 redistricting.

      • Boswell won't run against urban sprawl

        He’s trying to get federal funding for a NE Polk County Beltway that no one needs except for the developers buying farmground around Alleman, Elkhart and Bondurant.

        • Oh, I know that Boswell isn't fighting the good fight.

          But the blatant greed of Zaun sitting in an elected office while he profits professionally and personally from chewing up huge tracts of land really gets to me.  Every time we visit relatives in Grimes, we drive the stretch of Meredith Dr. west of the interstate where the new Marsh office building is, and where they’ll soon be building what my boys call “The Biggest Dahl’s in the World!”  I get mad all over again.

    • running for mayor of Urbandale

      is a lot different from running for Congress. Zaun’s a better candidate than Dave Funk, but I give the strong edge to Boswell.

      Zaun was just re-elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008, so he doesn’t have to give up his seat if he loses to Boswell.

  • On to budget cuts...

    The Iowa National Guard has just issued the biggest call up since the Second World War (3500-3900 troops for Afghanistan).

    General McChrystal has asked for 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan.

    Iowa ranks 30th of all the states in terms of population, yet is being asked to supply nearly a tenth of the 40,000 “surge” troops in Afghanistan.

    At the same time, the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs at Camp Dodge is cutting back on staff and services.

    Just a thought.

    • too bad

      Obama isn’t listening to Joe Biden on Afghanistan. Biden opposes sending more troops there.

      • Yeah, we're working on resistance..

        To the ING buildup. Wanna risk arrest for peace?

        As for the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs?  My friend’s wife just got laid off. Lovely.

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