Governor’s news conference: tune in again Thursday

UPDATE:  Scroll to the bottom of this story for a link to the 23-minute-long mp3 of this news conference.

It’s 2:55 p.m.   I’m sitting in the governor’s office, in what’s called the Kennedy Conference Room, awaiting Governor Chet Culver’s arrival to reveal his reaction to today’s Revenue Estimating Conference.  The three-member panel reduced their guess of Fiscal Year 2010 tax revenue by nearly $415 million.  

The full crew of statehouse reporters are assembled for the event.  There are five TV cameras in the back of the room to record it. 

Culver walked in the room at about 3:17 p.m.  “Hello,” he said, before striding to the lectern, opening by saying Iowa is suffering from the impact of the national recession. “The great recession was caused by bad policies in Washington and bad practices on Wall Street,” Culver said.  “…Today’s projected decline of 8.4 percent means state government will now have $414 million less to spend.”

Culver said the Department of Management would recast the state budget, based on the new estimate of state tax revenue. “l will review these new budget figures….Tomorrow afternoon at two o’clock, I will have a news conference to announce the specific steps I need to take,” Culver said.

What are your options?

“Every option is on the table.  Obviously, across the board cuts of up to 8.4 percent is an option, a special session is an option,” he said.

Spare some areas from cuts?

“In the past, we have taken every step to protect or backfill areas like public safety and that is something we’re going to have to weigh again.”

Go higher than 8.4 percent?

Culver said he wants to leave at least $100 million in the ending balance for FY 2010.  “I think it’s extremely important to have a fairly significant ending balance so we might consider going further, however today’s decision was unanimous and they projected out thru the end of the fiscal year so they have factored in, for example, a lot of the economic indicators that will hopefully suggest that this is going to be the shortfall.”

Culver continued in response to another question.

“We’ve got to tighten our belt….We’ve got to make some tough cuts,” Culver said.  “…We’re in uncharted waters, but we’re up to the challenge and we’ll meet it…Everybody understands we’re going to have to make deep cuts.”

Culver is asked to answer criticism from Republicans.

“This isn’t about partisanship.  No one could have predicted we would see this…decline…What, really, we need to do at this time is put the partisan politics aside…and resolve this budget challenge.”

Culver is asked to provide some perspective as to the depth of the problem.  (Earlier, Culver said he would not raise taxes to fix the problem.)

“It’s as bad as anyone has ever seen in recent history, arguably since the Great Depression,” he said.

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge is in the room, as is deputy chief of staff Phil Roeder, press secretary Troy Price, Department of Management director Dick Oshlo.

Re-election impact of this budget mess?

“I’m going to get the job done.  It’s an honor & privilege to be governor,” Culver said, adding he’d respond to this crisis appropriately.  “This is not a time for partisanship or politics.”

Culver is asked to respond to audit of the Secretary of State’s office during the time period when he was secretary of state.

Culver expressed his pride in the work he did in SOS office, stressing voter outreach, voter education, voter access issues.  “I’m not going to apologize” for spending in regard to voter access.

Reaction to “Terry Branstad 2010 committee” filing?

“I welcome him to the race,” Culver said.

Will state workers be laid off; what steps is Culver prepared to take in his own office?

“There’s no question that we’re all going to have to make cuts and share the burden,” Culver said.   Unfilled positions are “the first place department directors and I will look.”

There will have to be “layoff plans” developed, due to the contract with unionized state workers, according to Culver.

Reaction to the Film Office audit?

“I think it’s just outrageous that in a number of cases individuals exploited the program, you know, buying luxury vehicles…The abuses really angered me….I have zero tolerance for that type of abuse….I was also, as you know, very disappointed in the mismanagement.  There was not appropriate oversight…and that was why I made a number of personnel changes.”

“…We need to see results.  We need to see data that will guarantee the taxpayers of Iowa a benefit with any tax credit, with any program…That’s going to be the bottom line and I guarantee you we will never, ever again be taken advantage of as we were with this film program.”

Geoff Greenwood of KCCI asked about some comments Steffan Schmidt made about Culver’s management style.   Culver said Schmidt had never brought his concerns directly to him, then Culver turned his comments to the reporters in the room.

“I get along great with the press corps.  You’re all my friends.  I’m happy to sit down with each and every one of you so you get the information you need to do your jobs.”

Event over.

UPDATE:  Culver’s staff sent out a text of the statement he read to start the news conference.

DES MOINES – During a press availability at the State Capitol, Governor Chet Culver spoke with reporters regarding today’s Revenue Estimating Conference report, which projected an 8.4% decline in revenue. The following is a transcript of the Governor’s statement.
“The unanimous decision by the Revenue Estimating Conference today confirms my belief that the national economic recession continues to have a significant negative effect on our state’s economy. This great recession was caused by bad policies in Washington D.C., and bad practices on Wall Street.

“Today’s REC figures are a stark reminder of the impact this recession is having on our state, and on every state across the nation.

“Let’s review the status of Iowa’s budget:

“First, I proposed and the legislature approved a balanced budget for fiscal year 2010, which began on July 1. This budget was based on the official REC estimates from their March meeting last spring. The budget included a nearly $100 million ending balance, and $373 million in reserves.

“However, today’s projected decline in revenue of 8.4% means state government will now have $414 million less to spend this fiscal year.

“As Governor, I am obligated under the Iowa constitution to balance the state’s budget every year. Let me be very clear: I will. Unlike the federal government, Iowa cannot run a deficit, nor can we simply print more money to pay our bills.

“So, this afternoon I want to let you know the steps I am taking today to deal with this.

“First, I have directed the Department of Management and Director Oshlo to recast the state’s fiscal year 2010 budget to appropriately reflect today’s estimate by the REC. I will review these new budget figures first thing tomorrow morning.

“Second, tomorrow at 2:00 p.m., I will announce the specific steps I will take to solve this budget challenge and balance the fiscal year 2010 budget.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. […] The big event everyone’s waiting for today is Gov. Chet Culver’s news conference at 2 p.m. to announce what he’s going to do about the $415 million shortfall in this year’s budget.  He’ll first review a report this morning on how an across-the-board cut will impact over 250 separate line items in the budget.  He also said yesterday he’s not ruling out a special legislative session, although I’d consider that the least likely option. Culver’s strongly resisted the idea of calling lawmakers back up until now. The Register story is here. The Register editorial calls for an across-the-board cut. That’s here. Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson has a blow-by-blow account of Culver’s news conference, here. […]