Oh, I feel much better now

Governor Terry Branstad today: “I just want to assure the people of Iowa that I know what I’m doing.”

He has “no written plan” for how state government will function if a 2012 budget hasn’t been adopted by June 30. But no worries, he’s “been through emergencies before,” “understands and respects the responsibility that I have” and will use emergency powers if necessary to provide “the services the people need.” Anyway, Branstad told reporters, “There’s not going to be a shutdown.”

This budget standoff should have been resolved weeks ago, and the governor has been a big part of the problem. Despite improving state revenue collections, Branstad demanded significant cuts in education and human services when submitting his draft budget in January. A few months later, he line-item vetoed a Democratic tax cut priority, having raised no objections to that policy when legislators negotiated that bill with the governor’s staff in the room.

When the Iowa legislature’s scheduled adjournment date passed with little progress toward a 2012 budget, Branstad said don’t worry, we have plenty of time, we just need to “get serious” about working things out with “patience and perseverance.” But instead of advocating for a middle ground between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, Branstad decided in May to insist on the House Republican general fund spending target ($5.99 billion). That figure was about $160 million less than what Branstad proposed in his own draft budget. Moving away from the middle ground made no sense, because by the spring, Iowa’s revenue projections for fiscal year 2012 had improved compared to late last year.

Now Senate Democrats have agreed to the Republican overall spending target, but the governor won’t make significant concessions on Democratic funding priorities. The parties are still far apart on spending levels for human services, for example.

Iowans deserve more from Branstad than “trust me,” the government won’t shut down, and if it does, I know what to do.

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