Iowa Auditor Praises Branstad Budget

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed a fiscal 2014 state budget that eliminates a chronic spending gap that has dogged the state's balance sheet for year, State Auditor David Vaudt said Monday.

Vaudt gave the governor high marks in analyzing the proposals for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 that Branstad submitted to the split-control Legislature last January.

"These are the most fiscally responsible budget proposals I have analyzed in my 10 years as state auditor,"said Vaudt, a Clive Republican. "These budgets are fiscally sustainable and plan for the long term."

According to the auditor's report, Branstad's fiscal 2014 budget would spend $6.909 billion, which would result in an $81 million surplus as of June 30, 2014. However, that plan includes no new money for K-12 schools for the next school year and no new money to fund salaries and benefits for state employees in fiscal 2014 – issues that will have to be negotiated with legislators in the coming months.

Vaudt also noted that the governor's budget still relies on about $35 million in one-time money to cover disaster payments made by the Iowa Executive Council using the state's economic emergency account. He said those payments should be treated as ongoing expenditures within the general fund appropriations.

The auditor credited "modest" yearly spending growth coupled with better-than-expected tax collections as the main reasons state budget-makers have succeeded in eliminating a $764 million spending gap over three fiscal years – an accomplishment he heralded as "very significant."

Vaudt uses a different budgeting standpoint when analyzing state fiscal spread sheets so his numbers do not reflect the $800-million plus surplus shown in legislative budget documents and uses different spending assumptions that lawmakers employed in calculating their fiscal 2014 spending targets.

Last month Republicans and Democrats in the split-control Legislature issued separate spending targets that were about $484 million apart.

Majority House Republicans unveiled a budget proposal that sought to spend $6.414 billion while Democrats who control the Senate proposed a fiscal spending plan slightly below $6.9 billion. Branstad's budget proposed landed in the middle with the $6.538 billion plan he unveiled last January.

Click here to see the report.
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