Culver "Condition of the State" speech thread

Governor Chet Culver addresses the Iowa House and Senate this morning. Kathie Obradovich’s latest column emphasizes that Culver has broken with tradition this year by not submitting his draft 2011 budget to lawmakers before the big speech. (The governor submitted a draft budget for fiscal year 2010 in late December 2008.) Obradovich concludes that Culver needs to be in the “spotlight” without focusing on the budget.

She doesn’t mention other factors that seem likely to have delayed the budget draft. The Tax Credit Review Panel, which Culver appointed after the film tax credit fiasco, only just submitted its recommendations on January 8. I can’t imagine how the governor’s staff would put together a draft budget without knowing which tax credits deserve to be continued, scaled back or eliminated. Another possible source of delay is the State Government Reorganization Commission made up of Iowa House and Senate members, which voted on a list of cost-saving measures last month. Those measures would affect assumptions on state spending in the coming fiscal year.

Republican former governor Terry Branstad bragged to Obradovich that he always submitted his budgets early, adding that state legislators now face a shorter session without having the budget in hand.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal told Radio Iowa this week that lawmakers will move a major bill on reorganizing state government before they start work on next year’s budget. It makes sense, because you can’t make accurate spending projections without knowing how state agencies will be restructured.

I’ll update this post later with more details of Culver’s speech.

UPDATE: The Burlington Hawk Eye posted the transcript. He asked legislators “to pass a supplemental appropriations bill early this session to restore some of the cuts to the Department of Public Defense” (Culver cut the current-year budget across the board in October.) For the fiscal 2011 budget, Culver asked lawmakers “to fully fund community college job training, and to adequately fund the Department of Workforce Development. And, to create more ‘green collar jobs,’ of the future, to fully fund the Iowa Power Fund.” Longer excerpts from the speech are after the jump.

From Culver’s January 12 speech to state legislators:

For these reasons, I’m happy to report the Condition of the State is resilient, because the people of Iowa are resilient.

And, we have never stopped in our work for the “people,” that we are honored to represent! For example, to address “both” of our statewide challenges, you passed, and I signed, I-Jobs, our statewide infrastructure and job creation initiative.

A “yes” vote on I-Jobs was a “yes” vote for flood victims. A “yes” vote on “I-Jobs was a vote to “rebuild our economy!” A “yes” on I-Jobs was a vote for “businesses” and “communities” as they struggle to get back on their feet!

So, I want to be very clear: I’m proud of the fact we’ve made the difficult decisions necessary to put our state on the road to recovery.

I’m proud of the fact that on my watch we’ve earned the highest possible bond rating for good fiscal management. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve balanced the budget three years in a row, without raising taxes!

Culver also took on Republican talking points about the budget:

And speaking of the budget, some politicians and armchair quarterbacks appear to be confused about our current budget situation.

Let’s end their confusion! Here are the facts. Today, the budget is balanced. And it has been balanced every single day I’ve been governor. Additionally, because of our cost savings initiatives, the budget today is “smaller” than it was on the day I took office.

But this didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we made tough choices. We managed the budget responsibly and effectively.

Here are the 10 steps “I’ve” taken to successfully manage our state through the economic downturn.

First, starting in 2008, I cut state spending 3 percent, froze state hiring, cut employee travel and reduced the state’s health insurance costs by 20 million dollars.

Then, in 2009, I instituted a Lean Government initiative, further cut spending by 10 percent, and saved a half a billion dollars.

In addition, I cut my own salary, ordered state Department heads to do the same, and mandated that 3,500 “non-contract” employees in the executive branch take furlough days.

In addition, to further cut costs, I signed Executive Order No. 20, to improve efficiency, eliminate redundancies and identify wasteful spending. This order will save up to $140 million next year, and nearly a half billion dollars over the next five years.

Then, we took a huge step. We successfully negotiated a cost and job-savings agreement with two of our state’s largest unions — the State Police Officers and AFSCME. Fortunately, their members agreed to share in the sacrifice for the greater good. So, I want to salute Danny Homan from AFSCME and Mark Bowlin of SPOC, and their members, for these historic measures.

This demonstrates: when Iowans come to the table in good faith, we can meet our challenges.

Finally, we’ve done all of these things to balance the budget, while protecting our priorities. In renewable energy, workforce development, early childhood education, health care for our kids, and public safety.

Culver laid out “my top 10 legislative and budget priorities for the 2010 session”:

No 1: my top priority is “jobs.”

Job creation and job retention are incredibly important. So, I’m asking you to fully fund community college job training, and to adequately fund the Department of Workforce Development. And, to create more ‘green collar jobs,’ of the future, to fully fund the Iowa Power Fund.

In addition, to help create more jobs, invest further in our infrastructure, stimulate our economy, and continue flood recovery efforts, I look forward to working with you to best allocate the remaining $100 Million dollars of our I-Jobs funding.

Number two: I’m asking you to enact the remaining recommendations contained in my Government Efficiency Report. This will require legislative approval, and, it will allow us to save more than 200 million dollars next year, and a nearly billion dollars over the next five years![…]

No. 3: Finding efficiencies in state government is only the first step. A major reorganization of state government is the next step. So, I believe it’s time to rethink the way state government does business. Let me be clear. We’re talking about real ‘reform’ for the 21st Century. Not just short-term cost savings. This will also move us closer to the kind of smarter, more efficient government that is our goal, and that taxpayers deserve! So, I look forward to getting this done this session.

Fourth: Last session, you passed and I signed recovery assistance that offered both immediate “and” long term help for Iowans affected by the floods. This included funding for the Rebuild Iowa Office, which, thanks to General Ron Dardis’ leadership – as being a “national model” for effective flood recovery. So, I am asking you to fully fund the Rebuild Iowa Office this year. […]

Fifth, I respectfully ask you to explore every option available, including transferring money from the road fund to ensure we adequately fund the Iowa State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again!

No. 6, as you know, in an effort to save taxpayer money, and increase transparency, we have recently completed a thorough review of all tax credits in Iowa. Last week, the Tax Credit Review Panel issued their report. I ask you to “act” on their recommendations, and do all you can to make these credits work exactly as intended.

No. 7: let’s talk about honoring our most important responsibility as Iowans. That is, our duty as parents, and as shepherds of our children’s future.[…]

You know, I’m proud of the fact, that working together, we’ve made a long-term investment in the health and education of “all” children. Just think: in the last three years, because of it, we have extended health insurance coverage to 52,000 kids. This investment now makes Iowa number one in the nation when it comes to insuring children. Together, we must continue this investment, and my budget will reflect this.

Additionally, we “must” also continue to expand access to early childhood education. To date, we have helped more than 12,000 kids in 175 school districts get a quality preschool education. So, my budget request will include the last installment of our four-year, $60 million dollar commitment to preschool.

No. 8: in order to ensure “all” Iowa children can compete in this new global economy, today I ask you to quickly pass legislation required to allow Iowa to compete for federal “Race To The Top” funds.

Iowa stands to receive up to $175 million. This will allow us be more innovative in the classroom, build the education infrastructure our students need, turn around underperforming schools and allow more parental choice. […]

No. 9: I am asking you to pass legislation that requires school districts to spend down a portion of “their” cash reserves instead of shifting the burden to local property taxpayers.

No. 10: as Governor, and as a former teacher, my commitment to education transcends even our most difficult budget challenges. So, my budget fully funds two per cent allowable growth for our public schools.

And, on top of that, I will be asking you to dedicate at least $100 million from the reserves to restore some of the recent cuts. This will be a real shot in the arm for some of our schools, especially in rural districts, which are already cash-strapped, with depleted reserves.

I think Culver will get most of what he is asking for, but state legislators will refuse to allocate Road Use Tax Fund money to fund the Iowa State Patrol.

  • Teacher's Unions

    Are teacher’s unions going to organize for Culver?  I’ve spoken to several educators and they hate the guy.  I think he is being very realistic with his overall goals, but public employees and teachers in particular always gripe about their programs being cut.  Do you think they really look at the entire budget before they complain?  

    • I don't think many unions

      are too happy with Culver. They may focus their boots on the ground effort on the campaign against Grassley or the statehouse races instead of the governor’s race.  

  • boldface lie.....

    For Chet Culver to claim he hasn’t raised taxes…..that was enough for most to stop listening right there.

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