CORONAVIRUS

Iowa auditor: Governor could use state savings for virus aid

Rob Sand criticizes Kim Reynolds for not calling the Legislature into an emergency session to approve spending to help people suffering from the pandemic

Iowa Auditor Rob Sand explains results of an audit at a Jan. 9 news conference at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.
Iowa Auditor Rob Sand explains results of an audit at a Jan. 9 news conference at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Sand this week criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds for failing to convene a special session of the Iowa Legisltaure to authorize more aid to those hurt by the pandemic. (Associated Press)

DES MOINES — Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand is sharply criticizing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for not calling the Legislature into an emergency session to approve spending at least a portion of the $1 billion the state has accumulated in ending balance, reserve and emergency funds.

Sand, a Democrat, said in his annual budget review that restaurants and bars will lose $1.4 billion and roughly 1,000 could close due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and delayed action in Congress.

He said hospitals in the state have lost $443 million despite federal aid and many are at risk of closure.

Reynolds, a Republican, could have called the GOP-majority legislature back months ago to approve state aid to offset the pandemic, Sand said Thursday.

“Every day of delay is another day of pain for Iowans around the state,” he said. “This money belongs to Iowans and it should be in their hands to help survive this pandemic not sitting in state government accounts. We need to put people first.”

Iowa is expected to end the current fiscal year with an estimated $443 million balance. In addition, a cash reserve fund will have more than $587 million and an economic emergency fund of $195 million.

When asked about approving such state aid, Reynold has said the state doesn’t have enough money to make everyone whole, and she argued Congress should approve additional federal aid.

Sand called that “a rejection of fiscal, social and personal responsibility.”

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He held his budget review immediately before Reynolds held a virtual budget hearing to hear lobbyists for businesses and other organizations press her for funding for their organizations in the budget she will draft next month.

Asked about Sand’s criticism, Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett didn’t say directly why Reynolds had declined to support additional state aid. He noted that analysts have ranked Iowa among the most fiscally responsible states in the country.

“The governor has fought to protect the lives and livelihoods of Iowans through this pandemic, keeping the economy open and our kids safely in the classroom,” Garrett said.

Several states, including Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, called special sessions to provide pandemic related funding.

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