Branstad on the state budget
Gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad and current state auditor David Vaudt visited Estherville Friday morning as part of their “Truth in Budgeting” tour.
More than 50 people filled the community room at the Estherville Library to hear their message.
Former state representative John Greig introduced Branstad.
“We needed Terry to run again with the current state of the economy,” said Greig.
He said while the budget is important, Branstad was always very good at one of the governor’s responsibilities that is overlooked. He made wise choices when picking the right people to head departments, boards and commissions.
Branstad said returning to Estherville and Emmet County was like a homecoming for him. He said he represented 11 of the 12 townships in his first term as a House representative.
“It’s great to see the progress in this community,” he said.
Beginning his presentation, Branstad said Vaudt, a CPA, has been the voice of fiscal responsibility during Governor Chet Culver’s term.
“David’s done a tremendous job of showing the mismanagement that’s been going on,” said Branstad.
The candidate cited a TIME magazine article that predicts Iowa is expected to have an 18.6 percent budget shortfall-a higher percentage than California.
The pair’s first chart shown to the audience depicted spending in relation to revenue starting with Governor Robert Ray’s final years in office.
The chart indicated during Branstad’s first 16 years in office, he kept revenues and expenses relatively even before building a $900 million surplus in his final three years before leaving office.
The chart indicated that during Governor Tom Vilsack’s eight years and Culver’s tenure, expenses exceeded revenues by a large margin.
Branstad said in the 1960s, property taxes funded 80 percent of government. By the time he left office, property taxes paid for only 40 percent. He said the recent trend is going back the other way.
Vaudt added that the state is looking at a huge problem for fiscal year 2012.
“We’re looking at a $1 billion shortfall,” he said.
Branstad listed several solutions to improving the budget. (See pullout on Page 1for complete list)
“Rule No. 1 is don’t spend more than you take in,” said Vaudt.
Branstad said the state’s budget problems won’t be solved in one year and is putting together a five-year plan.
“We hope to have it done in three or four years,” he said.
Branstad also took time to introduce his running mate, Kim Reynolds. He said Reynolds, a former Clarke County treasurer, was a proponent of issuing driver’s licenses from the treasurer’s office.
Reynolds said she couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough when asked to be Branstad’s running mate.
Questions & answers
Branstad took a few minutes to answer questions from the audience.
The first questioner asked him about the national health care legislation that was passed.
Branstad said 21 states have challenged “Obamacare,” but current Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has refused to challenge that legislation. Branstad said GOP candidate Brenna Findley would have Iowa join that challenge if elected.
“We can’t afford the mandates in that health care legislation,” said Branstad.
Another questioner asked for the candidate’s thoughts on immigration.
“I think the government has failed the citizens in protecting our borders,” Branstad said. “I believe in enforcing our laws.”
He said that if law enforcement apprehends illegals, they should be turned over to the “feds and deported.”
Bob L’Heureux, financial officer for Iowa Lakes Community College, told Branstad, both pre-kindergarten through 12 and state colleges are receiving more money per student than community colleges while community college enrollment continues to rise.
“Community colleges are doing more with less funds,” said L’Heureux.
Branstad responded that he has always been a supporter of the community college’s jobs training program.
He didn’t want to over-promise what could be done to help the community college, but said he did want to provide “stability and predictability.”
“Community colleges are an asset and should be treated fairly,” said Branstad.
The former Iowa governor was also asked how he would help Iowa retain business and help economic growth.
Two things he promoted were to keep Iowa’s right-to-work status as well as federal deductibility.
“On the positive side, we should reduce commercial property taxes,” he said.
On a question about mental health issues, Branstad said a review of those issues is needed, as is an “up-to-date way to deliver services.”
On preschools, Branstad said traditionally non-profits and businesses have partnered together.
“I think the state can partner with them, but it’s not right for the taxpayers to take over the cost of the entire system,” he said.