Culver jovial as he exits Iowa’s political stage

Governor Chet Culver granted Radio Iowa a sort of “exit interview” this afternoon.  It took place in Noah’s, a locally-owned Italian restaurant in Des Moines.  Culver talked about leaving office tomorrow, his future and the ruckus at the statehouse as legislators reacted to the $84 million budget-cutting plan Culver released last week, more details of which came to light in the past couple of days.  From the “Legislators fret, Culver defends” story:

…“And, yeah, there are consequences when you’re required to cut $84 million, and the legislature gives you that mandate — it’s not pretty.”

Culver suggests lawmakers “didn’t maybe fully understand” the law they wrote which required him to decide which cuts to make, but forbade cuts to large sections of the budget, like spending at the state universities and K-through-12 public schools.

“The incoming administration and the Republican leaders have said they’re going to cut 15 percent of state government beyond this,” Culver said, with a laugh.  “So if there’s this debate now and concern at DHS or any of these agencies, what are they going to do when they learn about a 15 percent additional cut?”

Governor-elect Branstad promised during the 2010 campaign that he would cut 15 percent from the state budget over the next five years.

 Culver called being governor the “best job in the world” and said it was “awkward” to leave.  “It’s hard for any governor including, I guess, the Branstads,” Culver said.  Branstad served four terms as governor.  After 12 years out of office, Branstad launched a bid to win a fifth term and he’ll be sworn in for that fifth term tomorrow as Culver and crew make their exit.

Culver said his goal was to have his family’s belongings out of Terrace Hill (the governor’s mansion) by this evening.  The Culvers kept their home in West Des Moines and they’ve split their time between the residences over the past four years.

Culver, who was wearing a fleece jacket and ordered lunch during the interview, punctuated many of his remarks with laughter, some of it self-directed.  Culver joked that he’ll have plenty of time, now, to exercise daily. “Well, starting next week I have absolutely no more excuses.  I can’t use the flood excuse, the blizzard excuse,” Culver said, laughing.

In Culver’s 2006 campaign he ran an ad in which his wife referred to him as “the big lug.”  Culver laughed when I asked if he had been frustrated to be lampooned about his weight.

“It all comes with the territory.  No problem there at all.  I mean, I’ve got thick skin and you just kind of ‘go with the flow,'” Culver said. “I’ve been in politics for 44 years now.  My dad was a second-term congressman when I was born and I’ve had a front-row seat to the process. I love politics.  I love our democratic process and know that it’s rough and tumble and it can be mean and nasty and that’s o.k., you know?  I just try not to respond in kind.  I try to have my own way of doing things and I’m not one that likes to make it personal and mean-spirited.”

As you read in the excerpt above, Culver spoke about complaints from legislators of both parties about the $84 million in budget cuts he has ordered for the remaining months of the state fiscal year.

“We’re all friends,” Culver said.  “This isn’t anything personal, but I’ve got a job to do…You have to cut $84 million and there’s no easy way to do that….I know the numbers. I know the budget.  I know how painful it is to implement…It’s going to be fascinating to watch here. There’s been a lot of rhetoric here about these cuts, but where are they going to go?

“…There’s a lot of ideas. There’s a lot of proposals, but when the rubber meets the road, suddenly people start to say, ‘Oh, we didn’t really want to do that.’  We’re trying to make it very clear that these mandates have consequences and I’m not afraid to do my job.  There shouldn’t be any surprise here.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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