ARTICLE

Branstad pledges to undo two executive orders

ATLANTIC – Former Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday pledged that, if he is elected to a fifth term as governor in November, he would reverse two executive orders dealing with voting rights for felons and project labor agreements issued by Democrats who followed him to Terrace Hill.

The 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee also warned it will take time and tough choices involving government services, employees and entitlements to get Iowa’s fiscal house back in order over the next three to four years, and he did not rule out the possibility that highways users could face a future gas tax increase to fund transportation needs once the recessionary effects have eased.

Branstad, who previously served as Iowa governor from January 1983 to January 1999, said he would undo a July 2005 executive order signed by former Gov. Tom Vilsack that automatically restored voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences. He said he would again require that all fines, court costs, victim restitution and other obligations be met before such rights are restored.

Branstad also promised to reverse an executive order signed earlier this year by current Gov. Chet Culver that directed state agencies to consider using project labor agreements on construction projects exceeding $25 million, calling the move a “back-door” attempt to enact prevailing-wage provisions that stalled in the legislative process.

Branstad made his comments during stops in three western Iowa towns during a “Truth in Budgeting” tour he and State Auditor David Vaudt launched on Monday.

“We’re heading in the wrong direction at a very fast pace,” Vaudt told nearly 30 people invited to a former railroad depot for the Republican state budget briefing. He warned the state budget is “approaching a budget cliff” in fiscal 2012 due spending levels that exceed state revenues and too much reliance on one-time money for ongoing expenses that can only be halted by the “reality-based leadership” Branstad is offering.

“We need to be realistic,” said Branstad, who pledged to return predictability and stability to state budgeting by ending the practice of spending more than the state collects in revenue and abiding by statutory spending limits.

“Government cannot do everything. We’re spending too much. It’s not sustainable what’s going on at the federal and the state level. We’re going to have to adjust our thinking and we’re going to have to look at more efficient ways of doing things,” he said.

Branstad said he is working informally with Iowans advising him on a five-year plan to restore fiscal integrity to state budgeting practices while finding better, more efficient ways to deliver services with fewer employees, maintain key priorities and ease needless government regulations. He also wants to make it possible to cut state corporate income tax rates by half and to reduce commercial property tax burdens.

“My goal is to reduce the size and cost of government and not raise taxes,” he said.

Branstad fielded questions about infrastructure needs and told reporters after the Atlantic forum he didn’t think it was appropriate to consider a state gas tax increase given the current recession.

“But, it’s a user fee, as opposed to a general tax, and I believe in a pay-as-you-go system, not doing it with borrowed money,” he added. “I don’t think it’s something that we ought to be looking at at this time, but I’m not saying that down the road that we wouldn’t look at something.”

“I want to see more money for transportation and one of the things is to stop the diversions,” said Branstad, who praised lawmakers for ignoring a Culver proposal to return to financing the Iowa State Patrol via the road-use tax fund rather than through the state’s general fund.

Branstad said Culver “brags” that he didn’t raise state taxes, but he blamed the Democrat’s 10 percent across-the-board spending cut for forcing local property tax increases, teacher layoffs and other cost shifts. He also criticized Culver for paying incentives to get state workers to retire early and then seeking to fill nearly half the vacated positions with new hires or for saying state workers were taking a pay freeze when they were getting yearly merit “step” increases of 4 percent.

Ali Glisson, communications director for the Culver/Judge re-election campaign, said the Branstad and Vaudt “truth in budgeting” tour painted a “doom and gloom” scenario that dripped of irony.

“Terry Branstad was not honest with Iowans as governor. Now, his ‘truth tour’ dishonestly ignores bipartisan criticism and cherry-picks just three years of his record, without addressing 13 years of failure,” Glisson said in a statement. She said he failed to balance the state budget 13 of his 16 years as governor and “cooked the books” to hide a multi-million dollar deficit.

Democrat Jon Murphy, who is challenging Vaudt’s bid to be re-elected to a third term, accused the state auditor of sacrificing his integrity to promote a politically motivated road show. He pledged not to endorse any candidates for local or state offices and challenged Vaudt to do likewise.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@gazcomm.com

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