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Fact Checker: Grassley's claim about Judge's pay

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Introduction

“The governor, auditor and Secretary of Agriculture voluntarily cut their own pay 10 percent. But Lt. Gov. Patty Judge refused to cut her $103,000 salary by even a penny.”

Source of claim:

It was made in a TV ad entitled “Cut” now airing from Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Analysis

A rare attack ad from Grassley’s campaign hearkens back to Democratic challenger Patty Judge’s time as lieutenant governor during the 2009 recession.

In October that year, Gov. Chet Culver announced an across-the-board 10 percent cut in state spending for the fiscal year as revenue projections plummeted. The cuts totaled $565 million and included a reduction of 1,321 government jobs and unpaid furloughs for some staff members.

Culver and other elected officials agreed to take a pay cut in solidarity.

“Like all state departments, the Governor’s Office will be cutting its budget by 10 percent and has submitted our own plan,” Culver said in announcing the cuts. “I have decided to take a 10 percent cut in pay, my chief of staff has done the same and our entire staff will take up to seven furlough days.”

The governor and other top directors technically can’t take pay cuts as their salary is mandated by law. Instead, the Department of Administrative Services confirms Gov. Culver sent in checks to repay 10 percent of his $130,000 salary, equaling $13,000.

David Vaudt, then state auditor, and Bill Northey, secretary of agriculture, each took voluntary furlough days in 2009, the Des Moines Register reported July 9, 2010. The Fact Checker confirmed this with Northey.

Vaudt took four and Northey took 12, matching what their staffs were required to take. The two then repaid the value of their salary for those days, which amounted to 2 percent of Vaudt’s salary and 5 percent of Northey’s earnings, not the 10 percent the ad claims.

However, Judge was one of three elected officials who did not take a pay cut, along with Secretary of State Michael Mauro and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, the Associated Press reported in 2010. At the time, Mauro noted he had not received a raise in more than four years and Fitzgerald said his department cut 10 percent without him taking a pay cut.

In 2009, Judge’s spokesman said her salary of $103,212 was below that of other state directors even after they took a 10 percent cut. Using the State Employee Salary Book from 2009, we found several directors who made more than Judge even after a 10 percent pay cut, including the heads of Public Health, Human Services, Corrections and Education.

However, Judge’s salary was the same as that of Northey and Vaudt, who did reduce their pay. Her campaign now points out Judge was performing two jobs at the time — lieutenant governor and homeland security adviser.

Conclusion

The key point of the ad is Judge did not take a pay cut as lieutenant governor when other state officials did. This is accurate.

Judge acknowledges not taking a pay cut but her campaign argues the ad is hypocritical, noting Grassley received a pay raise that same year. The ad is off slightly on how much salary some state officials cut, which is why we give it a B.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/office holder or a national candidate/office holder about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our market. Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Forrest Saunders.

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