OPINION

The 'stache always knows best in Iowa

The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

Fun fact: Iowa is the only state with a ‘stache-cameral form of government. It’s true.

Sure, civics class taught us a bunch of stuff about coequal branches, bicameralism and whatnot. But just before I departed on vacation, Gov. Terry Branstad proved yet again that in Iowa, the mustache knows best. It frowned upon an additional $55.7 million for K-12 schools, the grand bipartisan bargain that ended an overtime 2015 legislative session. It twitched and balked at the Legislature’s wish for a slower, more orderly closure of two mental health institutes. It chuckled heartily at legislative attempts to provide more bucks to universities and other priorities.

And it remained remarkably straight-faced when it chalked it all up to fiscal responsibility, and once again kicked around poor old Chet Culver. Nice touch.

Never mind that our divided Legislature can’t run without these sorts of hard-won compromises, especially on major issues such as education funding. So what if the governor has now dropped a massive trust-destroying bomb with radioactive fallout sure to chill, haunt and hobble the next legislative session?

All you really need in the ‘stache-cameral is a governor with a disdain for ideas that aren’t his own, and a veto pen. Branstad artfully channeled King George just in time for Independence Day.

Don’t like it? Too bad. Quit whining.

That was state Sen. David Johnson’s message to a teacher who emailed the Ocheyedan Republican and other GOP lawmakers urging them to support a special session to override Branstad’s vetoes. Johnson, never known as much of a sugar-coater, told him to “quit whining.” I think the senator’s on to something. “Quit Whining” sums up the 2015 session and the governor’s leadership style quite nicely. If the Statehouse had a prom, it would be the prom theme.

Don’t like dirty water? Want your kids’ school to get enough bucks to, at least, tread water? Concerned about the closure of mental health facilities? Don’t like procedural shenanigans used to raise the gas tax? Want some topsoil on your lawn? Want a governor who provides leadership at critical moments instead of vetoes at the last minute?

Quit whining.

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Unless, that is, you’re one of the governor’s pals, peddling fertilizer or manufacturing all things lean and finely-textured. No need to be a whiner when the governor always makes you a winner.

The vetoes were a blunder, putting the last coat of shellac on a legislative session that now qualifies as an abject failure. Coupled with his reckless vetoes of bipartisan water quality and conservation funding in 2014, Branstad’s legacy is fast becoming that of a shortsighted chief executive who failed to make investments Iowa needed, setting up plenty of trouble ahead. The governor’s biggest accomplishment of 2015 is a pile of rejection slips.

There would be a silver lining in this cloud if I thought 2016 legislative races now would be fertile ground for a real debate over fundamental differences on supporting public education and protecting the environment. If Iowans indeed stopped whining and started voting. Unfortunately, I see more heated sidewalks and flower pots ahead. Overriding those vetoes would have sent a long-overdue message about the limits of executive authority. But Republicans can’t muster the courage to stand up to the ‘stache.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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