# Joel Anderson



Governor brags about hoarding public money during pandemic

The state of Iowa ended fiscal year 2021 with the largest surplus ever recorded: nearly $1.24 billion. That’s four times higher than the general fund’s ending balance of $305 million when the books closed on the previous fiscal year, and it doesn’t include an estimated $801 million in Iowa’s cash reserves and economic emergency funds.

Governor Kim Reynolds declared in a news release, “Iowa is in a very strong financial position due to our fiscal responsibility.” Her staffer Joel Anderson, who is temporarily running the state’s budget agency, commended the governor “on recognizing the importance and need for a healthy and strong balanced budget.”

But an enormous surplus is not a sign of a healthy budget or responsible decisions. On the contrary, it suggests state government should have spent more on the public services Iowans need.

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Kraig Paulsen to lead Iowa budget agency (updated)

Governor Kim Reynolds has decided to appoint Kraig Paulsen to lead the Iowa Department of Management, according to a document posted on the state budget agency’s website September 27. The governor’s office has not yet announced the decision, but the agenda for the October 4 meeting of the State Appeal Board indicates that Paulsen will be introduced as “Director of the Department of Management.”

The State Appeal Board meets monthly to approve or reject claims against the state or a state employee. Its three members are the Department of Management director, the state treasurer, and the state auditor.

Paulsen has served as Iowa Department of Revenue director since February 2019. He previously led a supply chain initiative at Iowa State University, a position that was created for him on a fast track, bypassing the university’s usual open search process. Before working at ISU, Paulsen represented part of Linn County in the Iowa House for fourteen years, serving as House speaker from 2011 to 2015.

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Exclusive: Other agencies covered $900K in governor's office costs

Governor Kim Reynolds’ office was able to spend nearly 40 percent more than its $2.3 million budget appropriation during the last fiscal year, mostly by shifting personnel costs onto other state agencies.

Documents Bleeding Heartland obtained through public records requests show that eight state agencies covered $812,420.83 in salaries and benefits for nine employees in the governor’s office from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. In addition, the Office for State-Federal Relations in Washington, DC remained understaffed, as it has been throughout Reynolds’ tenure. The vacant position should allow roughly $85,000 in unspent funds to be used to balance the rest of the governor’s office budget, as happened last year.

The governor’s communications director Pat Garrett did not respond to four inquiries over the past two weeks related to the office budget. But records indicate that unlike in 2020, federal COVID-19 relief funds will not be tapped to cover salaries for Reynolds’ permanent staffers in fiscal year 2021.

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Exclusive: Governor approved CARES Act spending on office tech upgrades

Governor Kim Reynolds approved plans last year to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds to upgrade the technology in her conference room, state records show.

The Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO) paid vendor AVI Systems $67,543.48 in December for unspecified “IT Equipment and Software” and “IT Outside Services.” Published reports and searchable databases do not reveal that those purchases benefited the governor’s office. But documents Bleeding Heartland obtained through public records requests indicate that the spending covered new audio and video equipment installed in the Robert Ray Conference Room, which is part of the governor’s office suite.

Records also show the payments were supposed to come out of Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, a pot of federal money established under the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

OCIO may have tapped a different funding source later to cover the conference room upgrade, as happened with a $39,512 project to migrate the governor’s office computers from Google suite to Microsoft Office 365 last year. Entries on the state’s online checkbook, totaling $67,543.48 to AVI Systems on the same December dates, do not mention the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The governor’s spokesperson Pat Garrett ignored six inquiries over a two-week period. OCIO’s public information officer Gloria Van Rees also did not respond to eight messages during the same time frame seeking to clarify what funding stream paid for the conference room upgrades, and whether the governor’s office reimbursed OCIO for the payments to AVI Systems, as happened following the Office 365 migration.

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Five unanswered questions about Iowa governor's staff salary payments

Governor Kim Reynolds has defended her decision to use nearly $450,000 in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to pay salaries and benefits for her permanent staffers.

But her comments at a September 16 news conference, along with information her staff provided to some reporters afterwards, left several salient questions unanswered.

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Exclusive: Iowa governor used CARES Act funds to pay staff salaries

Governor Kim Reynolds directed that nearly $450,000 in federal funding the state of Iowa received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act be used to cover salaries and benefits for staff working in her office.

According to documents Bleeding Heartland obtained from the Iowa Department of Management through public records requests, the funds will cover more than 60 percent of the compensation for 21 employees from March 14 through June 30, 2020.

Reynolds has not disclosed that she allocated funds for that purpose, and reports produced by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency have not mentioned any CARES Act funding received by the governor’s office. Nor do any such disbursements appear on a database showing thousands of state government expenditures under the CARES Act.

The governor’s communications director Pat Garrett did not respond to four requests for comment over a two-week period.

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