Branstad Administration Seeks ‘Least Disruptive’ Response to Sequestration

By James Lynch, Reporter

Members of Iowa Army National Guard's Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Second Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division listen to Cpt. Nick Jones at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena during their welcome home ceremony on Saturday, July 30, 2011 in Cedar Rapids. The battalion was mobilized on Aug. 7, 2010 in Afghanistan in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (David Scrivner/SourceMedia Group)

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By Ellen Kurt

DES MOINES, Iowa – The impact of federal sequestration in Iowa likely will be felt first and hardest by the National Guard and Iowa Workforce Development, Gov. Terry Branstad warned this morning.

Staffers in those two state agencies, which rely heavily on federal funds, may face furloughs, the governor said at his weekly news conference Feb. 26.

For example, the White House says Iowa will lose about $376,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement for about 12,680 people. White House estimates are for approximately 2,000 civilian Department of Defense employees being furloughed, reducing gross pay by more than $7 million.

Still, the impact and the state’s response are not clear.

“We have no clue” what the overall impact will be, Branstad said. “We have different estimates from different people, but it all depends on how well they manage it.”

State government, he added, “will deal with it as best we can.”

Given the uncertainty, according to Department of Management Director David Roederer, the state’s response likely will change from day to day, “maybe even an hourly basis.”

One of the biggest challenges is that no one knows how federal agencies will apply the discretion they have, Roederer said.

“The information that came out from the administration is half correct,” he said. “The numbers they put forward are obviously correct, but the cause and effect, that is not necessarily correct. It’s not because I think they are hiding the ball. I don’t think they have been given direction.”

For example, the White House estimates education cuts in Iowa will amount to $12 million, “but the impact is not likely to be the same on all programs,” Roederer said.

So he’s talking to state agencies, asking them to determine what’s needed if the cuts are implemented.

“We’re taking the approach of what will be least disruptive,” Roederer said.

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