DES MOINES, Iowa
Gov. Terry Branstad said he's confident the Iowa Supreme Court will uphold his decision to veto funding for Iowa Workforce Development offices, calling it a key test of gubernatorial authority.
"It's really more of a question of precedent and the power of the governor to control spending through the item veto process," Branstad said at his weekly news conference Monday. "This is an important case because it is going to determine for the future and for future governors their ability to control spending and provide the best and most efficient services to the people of Iowa."
For most measures approved by the Legislature, the governor must either accept or reject them in their entirety. On spending measures, he has line-item veto power to reject individual components of a bill. Branstad used that power to close Workforce Development offices around the state.
Instead, the state has installed computer terminals at libraries and other spots where people can access employment services. A lawsuit charged that Branstad exceeded his authority, and last week a Polk County judge agreed.
"We're asking for a stay of the district court decision," the governor said. "All of these item veto cases go to the Supreme Court and we'll be appealing to the Supreme Court. We'll be asking for an expedited review of this."
Branstad said, however, that nothing is likely to be decided during the current fiscal year.
The governor argues that the computer terminals at libraries and other facilities around the state are more accessible than the former Workforce Development offices, offering longer hours and better services at a lower price.
"The offices have been closed and we're going forward with the new process, which includes many more sites many more opportunities to help people find employment," said Branstad. "It is now up to 500 or 600 places that are accessible on evenings and Saturdays, which it wasn't before. We're going to move forward with that approach."
Danny Homan, president of the largest union representing state workers, rejected the governor's argument.
"I believe he's completely wrong," said Homan. "The current system they have set up is a system of computers tucked away in obscure locations that is not the equivalent of talking to a human being."
Homan said if Branstad "continues down the path of political partisanship and depriving people of services, we will prevail."
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said the governor exceeded his veto power, by rejecting the Workforce Development offices while keeping the $3 million lawmakers approved to run the offices.
"You can't reject the purpose for the spending, but keep the money, which is exactly what he did," said Gronstal.
Branstad said nothing will change while the issue is on appeal.
"We don't want to go backwards and in this interim period we're going to be providing the best employment services possible," Branstad said.