The first day of session

‘Tis the first day of the 2010 Iowa legislative session and we have discovered, courtesy of Jack Kibbie, that Cyclone fans in the Iowa Senate are far more boisterous than Hawkeye fans.

Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg who is president of the Iowa Senate, was among the six legislative leaders who gave opening day speeches this morning.  Kibbie’s speech started shortly after 10 o’clock. 

“And by the way, how ’bout those Hawkeyes?” Kibbie said, to few feeble cheers and a little bit of applause that quickly died down.

Kibbie then added: “And Iowa State.”  At this point, the Cyclone fans screamed much louder and clapped more vigorously.  (You can listen to the speech here to make your own call on the cheering competition.)

“They made Iowans very proud, so let us do the same,” Kibbie said to conclude his speech.

The audio from the opening day speeches from all six legislative leaders is here on the bottom of this page.  Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley wins the award for giving the longest speech, by far, at more than 12 minutes.  The two floor leaders in the House — Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen & Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy — are sort of tied for the “most succinct” honor as each spoke for about four minutes. 

The opening day speeches in the House were delayed a bit by problems with the audio system.  Wonder if it will be functioning at 10 o’clock tomorrow when the governor delivers his “Condition of the State” message?

Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale who is running for Iowa’s third district congressional seat, asked for a chance to speak this morning so he could recognize the Tea Party activists who have come to the capitol today.  One of Zaun’s Republican rivals — Dave Funk — has a lead Tea Party organizer working on his campaign.  Ryan Rhodes, the Iowa chairman of the National Tea Party movement, has been hired to work as political director for Funk’s campaign.

Two top GOP leaders on TV this weekend

The guests on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on IPTV are House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha & Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton.  The show airs tonight at 7:30 and is rebroadcast Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

I asked the two men whether they would vote to do away with any of the state’s tax credits.  Their answers are in this Radio Iowa story.  (Condensed version: they’re “open” to the idea of killing some, but not ready to list which ones — not even the controversial tax credit for filmmakers.)

Last week’s show featured two labor leaders — AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan and Janice Laue of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.  You can watch it here.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story, focusing on what Homan and Laue had to say during the show about the state’s tax system.

The highlight of the show was when AP’s Mike Glover asked Homan what kind of relationship Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, has with organized labor.

“We work with the governor and his staff every day. Our relationship is what it is,” Homan said.  “I mean, at times it’s difficult.  At times it’s cooperative. I think it’s a relationship that will be improved, hopefully — can be improved, hopefully.”

Listen to all of the exchange by clicking on the following audio link:  HomanOnCulver

Thanksgiving week left-overs

Read below for tidbits about John Carlson, Swati Dandekar, Ali Glisson, Michael Kiernan, (former Governor) Terry Branstad, (current Governor) Chet Culver, and others. 

The Legislative Services Agency issued a financial analysis on Wednesday, outling the depth of the budget problems legislators and the governor face.  Read the story Rod Boshardt of The Cedar Rapids Gazette wrote here  and/or read the story Jason Clayworth of The Des Moines Register wrote.

A flurry of written statements were issued via email on Wednesday afternoon.  Read them below.

[Read more…]

Democrat wins Iowa House seat

Kirsten Running-Marquardt, the daughter of former state Representative Richard Running of Cedar Rapids, has won a seat in the Iowa House.  (According to KCRG-TV, Running-Marquardt received over 75 percent of the votes cast. Turn-out in the district was less than 10 percent.)  

The seat opened up when former State Representative Dick Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids) resigned.  Here’s background on the two candidates who faced-off today, as well as a link to background on Taylor’s resignation.  Statements from Iowa Democrats & Iowa Republicans after the jump.

[Read more…]

It’s House versus Senate

Many of the battles at the statehouse are partisan in nature, pitting Republicans against Democrats.  But sometimes — particularly in the close-down hours of a legislative session — the battles feature one chamber against another, the House against the Senate. 

Sometimes, there are no partisan lines and there’s unanimity.  That seems to be the case here as legislative leaders from both political parties are uniting for an event, although there’s a House versus Senate flavor to it.   Read more in the news release below.

House vs. Senate to fill carts with food and win donations for their hometown food pantry

[Read more…]

UPDATE: about 180 layoff notices approved today

Here’s the latest information from Governor Chet Culver’s staff regarding the budget reductions in the executive branch the governor approved today.  Click here to read the spreadsheets.  Short version:  about 180 layoff notices will go out as a result of today’s action.

The governor, as you may know, hopes to avoid massive layoffs in the Departments of Corrections & Public Safety by reopening union contracts and renegotiating wages.  In addition, Culver has ordered the 3258 executive branch employees who are NOT covered by a union contract to take seven days off, without pay, between now and June 30.

UPDATE: a few statements have been issued this afternoon & early this evening.  Read the written words of AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan; Republican legislative leaders & the lone Republican gubernatorial candidate who issued a statement this evening  (it wasn’t from the guy who’s been governor before, BTW).

[Read more…]

Weekend round up

Jennifer Jacobs of The Des Moines Register conducted a poll — of state agency directors.  She discovered a couple who do not plan to take the 10 percent salary reduction their boss/the governor said they would be taking.  Read her story, with “poll results” listing who those two directors are.

The guests on this weekend’s “Iowa Press” program on Iowa Public Television were House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha and Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton.  Stories featuring comments the two men made after the show’s taping were published on The Quad City Times website and written by Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette; written by Jennifer Jacobs of The Des Moines Register and written by yours truly on Radio Iowa.   At issue, the governor’s authority to transfer money around the executive branch.  The Republicans suggested Culver had wide if not nearly unlimited authority to transfer funds from one agency to another, although both Governors Terry Brasntad and Tom Vilsack were subjected to legal challenges when they used this authority over the objections of legislators and interest groups.

Here’s a little segment of the Code of Iowa that relates to this subject matter; decipher on your own billable hours:

8.39 Use of appropriations – transfer

1. Except as otherwise provided by law, an appropriation or any part of it shall not be used for any other purpose than that for which it was made. However, with the prior written consent and approval of the governor and the director of the department of management, the governing board or head of any state department, institution, or agency may, at any time during the fiscal year, make a whole or partial intradepartmental transfer of its unexpended appropriations for purposes within the scope of such department, institution, or agency.

2. If the appropriation of a department, institution, or agency is insufficient to properly meet the legitimate expenses of the department, institution, or agency, the director, with the approval of the governor, may make an interdepartmental transfer from any other department, institution, or agency of the state having an appropriation in excess of its needs, of sufficient funds to meet that deficiency. An interdepartmental transfer to an appropriation which is not an entitlement appropriation is not authorized when the general assembly is in regular session and, in addition, the sum of interdepartmental transfers in a fiscal year to an appropriation which is not an entitlement appropriation shall not exceed fifty percent of the amount of the appropriation as enacted by the general assembly. For the purposes of this subsection, an entitlement appropriation is a line item appropriation to the state public defender for indigent defense or to the department of human services for foster care, state supplementary assistance, or medical assistance, or for the family investment program.

3. Prior to any transfer of funds pursuant to subsection 1 or 2 of this section or a transfer of an allocation from a subunit of a department which statutorily has independent budgeting authority, the director shall notify the chairpersons of the standing committees on budget of the senate and the house of representatives and the chairpersons of subcommittees of such committees of the proposed transfer. The notice from the director shall include information concerning the amount of the proposed transfer, the departments, institutions or agencies affected by the proposed transfer and the reasons for the proposed transfer. Chairpersons notified shall be given at least two weeks to review and comment on the proposed transfer before the transfer of funds is made.

4. Any transfer made under the provisions of this section shall be reported to the legislative fiscal committee on a monthly basis. The report shall cover each calendar month and shall be due the tenth day of the following month. The report shall contain the following: The amount of each transfer; the date of each transfer; the departments and funds affected; a brief explanation of the reason for the transfer; and such other information as may be required by the committee. A summary of all transfers made under the provisions of this section shall be included in the annual report of the legislative fiscal committee.

Senator McKinley, as you may recall, said in July that he was exploring the idea of running for governor.  Then, in August, McKinley said he would “reevaluate” and likely drop out if former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race.  McKinley has not accepted the Iowa GOP’s invitation to appear at a fundraising finner on November 7, an invitation which potential/announced candidates Jerry Behn, Terry Branstad, Christian Fong, Chris Rants, Rod Roberts and Bob Vander Plaats have accepted. 

Here is a transcript of what McKinley had to say on “Iowa Press” about his candidacy.

McKinley: “Well, I think it is a forgone conclusion that Terry Branstad is running for governor. And I have indicated that when he formally announces that he will be entering the race, I will be withdrawing from the race. Quite frankly, I’ve been concentrating on bringing the republicans back to the majority in the senate, and that’s been the task I’ve been doing. I couldn’t both be the senate leader and run for governor.”

Iowa Press moderator Dean Borg: “If your candidacy depends on whether or not Branstad is in or out, is that saying that you are granting him the nomination?”

McKinley: “No, it doesn’t say that at all.”

Borg: “You assume that he’s the nominee?”

McKinley: “No, it doesn’t say that at all. It merely states that if Terry Branstad gets into the race, that I will reevaluate and withdraw.”

This weekend Electrolux executives confirmed they’ll pull the plug on plants in Webster City & Jefferson, shifting washer and dryer production to a plant in Mexico.  About 850 people work at the plant in Webster City; another 45 work at the Electrolux facility in Jefferson. 

And finally, Iowa State fans see red (after beating “Big Red”) when Governor Culver issues a statement of congratulations on Saturday to the Hawkeyes but not the Cyclones.  You may not know this, but Governor Culver is prone to issue LOTS of written statements of congratulations to sports teams (like the 8-0 Hawkeyes) and to Iowa natives (like the unrelated Zach Johnson and Shawn Johnson) when they win some sporting event.

Reaction to Culver’s 10% cut in state budget

In case you’re just joining us this evening, Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, ordered a 10 percent across-the-board cut in the state budget this afternoon.

AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan says state worker layoffs will be “devastating.”

Republicans aren’t supportive. Read some of their reaction here.  (Full statements posted below.)

Here’s some historical perspective,  with data courtesy of Culver press secretary Troy Price.  It’s a list of across-the-board cuts ordered by Governors Ray, Branstad, Vilsack & Culver.  It goes back to the Farm Crisis.

  • August, 1980 —  Governor Robert D. Ray (R) orders 3.6 % across the board cut.
  • December, 1980 — Governor Robert D. Ray (R) orders 1 % across-the-board cut.
  • September, 1983 — Governor Terry E. Branstad (R) orders 2.8 % across-the-board cut.
  • September, 1985 — Governor Terry E. Branstad orders 3.85% across-the-board cut.
  • July, 1991 — Governor Terry E. Branstad orders 3.25% across-the-board cut.
  • November, 2001 — Governor Thomas J. Vilsack orders 4.3% across-the-board cut.
  • October, 2003 — Governor Thomas J. Vilsack orders 2.5% across-the-board cut. (10% of cut restored in June, 2004 to make it 2.25%)
  • December, 2008 – Governor Chester J. Culver orders 1.5% across-the-board cut.
  • October, 2009 — Governor Chester J. Culver orders 10 % across-the-board cut.

Now, to the prepared statements which reached my email inbox.

[Read more…]

Revenue Estimating Conference: Iowa taxes down $415 million

UPDATE:  Scroll to the bottom of this story to listen to an mp3 of the entire 23 minute meeting.

It is 12:55 p.m. on a Wednesday and people are slowly filling up the Supreme Court Chamber in the Iowa  Statehouse.  The ornate room has been converted into a meeting room and the Revenue Estimating Conference is scheduuled to meet at 1 p.m.  The three-member panel will set its official estimate of state tax collections for the current budgeting year.  It’s likely the governor will order an across-the-board cut afterwards, the depth of which will be determined by the estimate this three-member panel decides upon.

As blogged about yesterday, the three members of the panel are Legislative Services Agency director Holly Lyons; Department of Management director Dick Oshlo (the governor’s representative on the panel) and David Underwood, who recently retired from a firm in Mason City where he served as chief financial officer.

At 12:58 p.m., the governor’s staff sent out an advisory via email.  The governor will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. this afternoon to “react” to the decision made by the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Each seat is now full.  Phil Roeder, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, is standing in the back of the room, within arm’s length of a seated Chris Rants, one of the Republican candidates for governor.

The meeting opened with Oshlo being elected chairman of the panel and minutes of the March 20, 2009 meeting were approved by voice vote. 

“Obviously these are difficult economic times for the stsate and based on recent events….we have to review the current numbers and see if there are any revisions,” Oshlo said. 

Lyons said there is a “significant and severe recession not just for Iowa but for all states.  Since last year there’s been a loss of 50,000 jobs…unemployment is slowing, but likely to remain high….November of 2008 was the last month we saw true, positive revenue growth….Consumer confidence remains uncertain.”

Lyons quoted a report suggesting holiday sales will be one percent lower than last year.

Lyons said federal economic stimulus money was being spent in Iowa, but “the good news is that we haven’t felt the effects of the stimulus and the I-JOBS spending yet.”

Suggesting the next nuggett came from “the misery loves company department,” Lyons cited National Conference of State Legislatures data, indicating:  “state governments will face severe budget problems for 12-24 months after the recession ends.”

Underwood said “all of us” had been surprised by the “depth of job loss” in Iowa.  “None of the national forecasts came even close to the 50,000 level for Iowa…The impact to Iowa’s revenue…is probably somewhere in the $80 to $100 million range.”

“…Corporate profits continue to be an issue…I think that’s going to be a reality for us…profits are going to be down.”

Oshlo began speaking, focusing on corporate tax payments, saying the decline in September “was alarming.”  He is a low talker and people in the back of the room, including yours truly, cannot hear all of what he is saying.

Underwood takes the floor again.  He’s preparing to “resolve” the differences in estimates from the legislative and executive branches.  “It’s probably somewhere in the midst of these two,” he adds.

Lyons makes a motion, to reduce the personal income tax refund estimate in Oshlo’s estimate (the governor’s numbers) by about $32 million.  That’s the first reduction (with more to come) and it passes.  It means the TOTAL reduction is in the neighborhood of $414.9 million according to the math-proficient Lynn Campbell of who is sitting to my left.  We’ll double-check with the mumbling people up front after the meeting concludes.  (UPDATE:  It was, indeed, $414.9 million.  That represents a reduction of a little more than seven percent.)

[Read more…]

The “film tax credit” report is out

At 11:19 a.m. this morning, the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s staff emailed/released the “program review” of the Iowa Film Office which was conducted by the Clifton Gunderson accounting firm.   Read it here.

UPDATE:  A statement from the Attorney General was released at 11:24 a.m.  Read it below.

Statement of the Attorney General’s Office
Monday, October 5, 2009

The Attorney General’s Office, Polk County Attorney’s Office, State Division of Criminal Investigation and State Auditor are undertaking a criminal investigation related to the Iowa Film Office tax credit program.

We are not permitted by ethical rules to discuss the possible subjects, focus or other details of the investigation.  We are permitted to provide information about other aspects of our ongoing review of the Film Office tax credit situation, which was requested by Governor Culver.  We are working intensively on this review.

[Read more…]