Government

Hubbell: GOP budget mismanagement at Iowans' expense

Democrat says surplus comes after cuts 'decimated' the state

Iowa democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell talks with supporters outside the Johnson County campaign field office on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell talks with supporters outside the Johnson County campaign field office on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The state budget surplus being touted by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is not cause for celebration, her 2018 Democratic opponent said Wednesday, noting it partly came at the expense of college students and others impacted by midyear spending cuts.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell said he was surprised that Reynolds had issued a news release Tuesday saying she was “proud” the state ended fiscal 2018 with a $127.3 million general fund surplus — given that several key government areas were forced to undergo midyear belt-tightening to head off a projected shortfall when the fiscal year ended June 30.

“It’s surprising Gov. Reynolds would tout this as an example of good fiscal management, as her tens of millions in midyear budget cuts decimated our state,” he said in a statement.

“I am sure our University of Iowa and Iowa State students who had to shoulder $11 million in midyear cuts, forcing 30 staff layoffs and 13 center closures, are surprised by this surplus. The same could be true about our Chief Justice, who stressed how Reynolds’ midyear cuts would put the Iowa court system in crisis, or the Department of Human Services, who has faced rising caseloads and reduced staff struggling to adequately manage work,” Hubbell said. “Gov. Reynolds’ budget mismanagement continues at grave expense to Iowans, and it’s time for a change.”

In her release Tuesday, Reynolds credited the higher-than-expected ending balance to a $95.6 million boost in state tax collections that was well above what the Revenue Estimating Conference had predicted.

“Our economy is growing, incomes are rising and our state’s budget is a reflection of that,” she said in her statement Tuesday. “But I’m never satisfied. I’m going to continue to push for policies that grow our economy, invest in education and affordable health care and maintain Iowa’s status as the No. 1 state in the country.”

Leaders from both sides of the political aisle in the Iowa Legislature also weighed in on the $127.3 million surplus — with majority Republicans hailing it as the product of “responsible budget management” and minority Democrats decrying GOP “fiscal mismanagement and misplaced budget priorities” that forced $35.5 million in midyear budget adjustments that fell on higher education, human services, courts and prisons. Iowa’s public universities raised tuition to make up some of the loss of lower state appropriations.

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Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday’s announcement was evidence “those cuts were made to pad the state budget for a news release in an election year.”

The Republican Governors Association came to Reynolds’ defense, saying the surplus was an indication that her “smart, sound” and fiscally conservative policies were “delivering results,” given that the surplus is four times larger than the $31.9 million expected after the budget cuts and adjustments.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, the state closed fiscal 2018 with $620 million in its cash reserve and economic emergency fund after appropriating about $7.25 billion, and is projected to end the current fiscal year with $762 million in reserves on June 30, 2019, after legislators appropriated $113 million from the general fund directly to the cash reserve.

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

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