To deal with lower-than-expected revenues and a record $415 million shortfall in the state budget, Iowa Governor Chet Culver on October 8, 2009 ordered a 10% across-the-board cut in spending by all state government agencies. It's the most severe cut in over 40 years and will mean trimming and elimination of some government services and a number of state employees will lose their jobs.
Tax revenues have dropped off dramatically due to the nation's economic recession, and it's finally catching up to Iowa. The plunging tax revenues have knocked the state budget badly out of balance, just three months into the current budget year. This comes on the heels of $180 million in cuts and spending delays Culver imposed in January.
The state's Revenue Estimating Conference, a group of state officials who estimate annual revenues, issued a report on October 7 projecting that the state's general fund revenues will $415 million lower than predicted in March. That's 7.1% lower than the conference predicted last spring and 8.4% lower than actual revenue the last budget year.
Cut in state government spending will affect Iowa Ag Department
Iowa Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey issued the following statement on the 10% across the board budget cut ordered by Governor Culver on October 8.
Northey says: This cut will bring the state ag department's total two-year budget cut from the beginning of fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2010 to 23%.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship had already experienced a 15% cut from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2010 that reduced the department's general fund appropriation from $22 million to $18.7 million. The new cut announced on October 8 cuts an additional $1.87 million from the ag department's budget to a level of $16.8 million. This level of funding is approximately the same as the department's appropriation for fiscal year 1994.
This cut equals what ag department's entire budget was in 1994
The ag department is currently authorized to employ 408 full time employees (FTEs). Due to the previous cuts the department has not been filling positions and currently has 37 open positions. The department's 371 FTEs are the fewest number of employees the department has had in more than 20 years. These numbers are before the additional 10% cut announced on October 8, 2009.
The department was handling the previous 15% cut by not filling open positions, by permanently laying off 3 people, and by using mandatory leave without pay for the department's 38 non-contract employees. Also, the department has been offering voluntary leave without pay to all employees, and using one-time funding sources such as depreciation funds, a use which was authorized by the legislature during the last session.
It is still unclear what additional steps will be needed to handle the additional $1.87 million cut that needs to be made as a result of the October 8 announcement, but layoffs and possible elimination of certain department functions are possible.
Ag department layoffs and elimination of services are possible
Here are Northey's comments regarding Governor Chet Culver's October 8 announcement ordering the 10% budget cut:
"The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has already taken a significant reduction in its budget over the past year and another 10% cut in funding will have a dramatic affect on how we operate and the services we will be able to provide. We will spend less money in this fiscal year than was spent 16 years ago, all while state government has grown approximately 48% in the same period of time."
Overview—what does Iowa Department of Agriculture do?
"The Department is responsible for a wide variety of consumer protection and agriculture promotion programs. This includes regulating and inspecting meat processing, commercial feed and fertilizer, pesticide application and dairy production and processing. The state of Iowa's Weights and Measures Bureau is part of the ag department and makes sure both buyers and sellers are treated fairly at the gas pump, grocery store or grain elevator."
"The State Climatologist, State Entomologist, State Horticulturalist and State Veterinarian are also all part of the department. Other areas of responsibility for the state ag department include surveying and gathering agriculture statistics, the Iowa Horse and Dog Breeding program and helping promote the more than 170 farmers markets located across the state."
"Land stewardship is also central to the work of the department. The Division of Soil Conservation is part of the department and it provides farmers with expertise and funds to help them install practices that preserve our highly productive soil, prevent erosion and protect our critical waterways. Summing up, The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is focused on making sure future Iowans can experience the same high quality of life that past generations have enjoyed in our state."