EXTRA: Culver's statement on budget reduction plans - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

EXTRA: Culver's statement on budget reduction plans

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DES MOINES (KWWL 10/28/09) - Governor Chet Culver Wednesday took further action on implementing the 10% across-the-board budget reduction which he announced earlier this month. The Governor approved 34 of the 36 departmental budget reduction plans submitted last week by state agencies. Governor Culver did not approve plans for the Departments or Corrections and Public Safety, pending further review.

Below is the Governor's statement from Wednesday's press conference.

STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR CULVER

I want to provide you with an update on our work to implement the ten percent across-the-board budget reductions I ordered two weeks ago.

The meltdown of our national economy has created many challenges for our state - both immediate and long-term. We inherited this mess after nearly a decade of bad practices on Wall Street and poor decisions in Washington. As is true with all great challenges, there is a painful reality to our situation: Given this budget reality, there are no easy gimmicks or quick fixes.

The solution will be long-term in duration, complex in nature and dependent on many, many stakeholders - all of whom I am pleased to say have rolled up their sleeves and helped craft a cure.

With that background, let me explain where things stand today, and where we are headed in the days and weeks ahead.

First, as you are aware, 36 state agencies were required to submit their preliminary reduction plans to implement the 10% across the board budget reductions to me last Tuesday, October 20. These reduction plans represent each agency's proposal for implementing the $565 million reduction mandated in Executive Order 19. There were many ideas proposed with common themes: lay-offs, efficiencies, leaving vacant positions unfilled and cutting or even eliminating government programs and services.

I, like many of you, immediately raised questions with some of the recommendations, especially in areas that affected children, vulnerable adults, and public safety. Since then I have assembled various working teams, including the Lt. Governor, my staff, agency directors, state employees, union officials, and organizations outside of state government. We have discussed each of the 36 plans with the submitting departments and have held extensive meetings with the department directors departments by the budget reductions and receive input from outside stakeholders.

Today, I am pleased to say that we have made progress.

We have completed our initial analysis and I have reached the following conclusions:

First, in an effort to share in the cuts, I am ordering each of the 3,258 non-contract employees in the executive branch to take seven days without pay between now and the end of the fiscal year. I do not believe it is fair for any state employee to not contribute toward our solution. That is why I have taken a 10% cut in my salary, and asked department director to reduce their pay, and have submitted a plan for my office that includes seven furlough days for each member of my staff.

Second, today I am approving 28 department reduction plans subject to the addition of the seven day furlough order. This will allow those departments to proceed with implementation of their plans.

Third, I am approving 6 department reduction plans subject to the restoration of certain cuts that I consider essential to protecting children and vulnerable adults.

The specific changes are outlined for you in a handout that was made available at the beginning of this press conference. These restorations amount to approximately $16 million dollars and will be paid for with a combination of the savings resulting from the seven furlough days I have ordered for all non-contract employees as well as departmental transfer of funds.

I believe we cannot allow programs that are the most essential to the health and welfare to the neediest of Iowans to be eliminated. We have a responsibility to look out for those who can't take care of themselves.

Each of these 34 agencies will be now receive a letter from the Department of Management indicating that their plan has been approved as noted.

In addition, all departments that have proposed to layoff personnel have been directed to submit preliminary layoff plans to me by Friday, October 30.

So that leaves us with two departments with preliminary plans I am not approving today: the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety.

I reject these two plans because I am hopeful that we can find an alternative to laying off hundreds of correctional officers, state troopers and law enforcement personnel.

I am rejecting these plans because public safety is essential to our daily lives.

That is why yesterday I sent a letter to the state's three bargaining units - AFSCME, Iowa United Professionals, and the State Police Officers Council - who represent more than 16,000 state employees - asking them to join me in negotiations for amending their current contract. This past Saturday, I met with AFSCME's bargaining unit - which represents more than 13,000 state employees - to discuss ideas for moving forward. We followed that meeting with a three hour session yesterday morning and the talks have been very productive. And earlier today, I met with the State Police Officers Council representatives and those talks were productive. Finally, I will meet with the Iowa United Professionals union leadership as soon as schedules permits, but our staff has been in daily contact with their representatives.

I seek substantive discussions with all three unions on issues that may impact our state budget cuts. Our goal is to do everything we can to prevent layoffs related to essential public safety.

If we cannot reach agreement with the unions, then I will implement the layoff plans submitted by these two departments.

Unfortunately, we do not have an endless amount of time in which to reach an agreement and to have it ratified by each respective union. I expect to know by Friday, November 6 whether we will move forward in discussions with the unions or implement the layoff plans.

If a union agrees to open their contract to further negotiations we will not and cannot negotiate this in the media. It will be agonizing for members of the media who have an hourly appetite for information. But I have committed to each union that all negotiations will be done in private and not discussed with the media until we have something to say.

My preference is to resolve this issue through negotiations that allow all state employees to contribute toward a solution to our budget crisis. Ultimately, I will make my decision based upon the facts before me, and the progress we have made.

Our receipt of the 36 preliminary budget reduction plans was the start of a very long and complex process. Today we've taken next step and we have a lot of work yet to do.

The people of Iowa elected me to run their government efficiently and to live within our means. In my three years in office that is exactly what I have done, and that is exactly what I will continue to do.

It will not be easy, but I have no doubt that together we will weather these challenges and come through stronger than ever.

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