Iowa Auditor: Both parties playing games with the budget

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February 29, 2012

By Greg Janetka


DES MOINES, Iowa: Auditor of State David Vaudt (R) said both Democratic and Republican legislators are guilty of issuing obfuscated budget proposals, releasing targets that are "impossible to evaluate" and including proposals that cannot be accomplished.[1]

Last month, Gov. Terry Branstad issued a proposed budget of $6.244 billion, which included an increase in spending of about $230 million more than the current budget.[2] Senate Democrats answered with a $6.219 billion proposal that has $25 million less in spending than the governor's plan. However, according to Vaudt, that figure does not include $113 million in tobacco tax transfers that will be spent on health care. With that spending included, the Democratic plan actually has $88 million more in spending than the governor.

House Republicans came out with a $6.062 billion proposal. Their plan includes $63 million in proposed spending cuts that Vaudt said are all but impossible. Republicans aim to save $43 million through a $200 per-month employee health care premium contribution, but those payments are not required and the legislature does not have the power to make them mandatory.[3] Their plan also includes a savings of $20 million by selling state-owned land, but Vaudt said that isn't realistic.[4]

The main problem with both parties proposals is their lack of details. Branstad issued a full 1,300-page budget, while Republicans and Democrats issued two-page spending targets that only outline goals. “Let’s lay it out. Let’s show people what we’re actually doing and let’s not come up with techniques that kind of camouflage what’s really happening. Let’s be honest with the taxpayers and show them what’s exactly happening. It’s an incomplete picture. It doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. It makes it impossible to fully evaluate,” Vaudt said.[4]

Vaudt is one of thirty-seven state executive auditors across the country. He was elected as a Republican and has served in that position since 2003.

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