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.
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).
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.