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Branstad: AFSCME should’ve raised Iowa budget concerns long ago (UPDATED)

Gov. Terry Branstad‘s chief spokesman lashed back Wednesday afternoon at union assertions that a special session was a necessity, asking where such concerns were years ago when state government was controlled by Democrats and undergoing budget cuts.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, urged lawmakers to call a special session to over-ride certain line-item vetoes made by Branstad in appropriations budgets and to address ongoing staffing concerns at Iowa correctional institutions.

“Danny Homan sat silent on the sidelines as Gov. [Chet] Culver and legislative Democrats slashed funding for corrections by millions of dollars,” Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht responded, adding that Homan should “heed is own advice” and bring AFSCME back to the negotiating table to revamp a deal struck by Culver and the union in late 2010, after Culver had been defeated in the November election by Branstad.

The contract, which Albrecht described as setting a “fiscally reckless course … with massive salary increases,” provided for a 2 percent pay increase for roughly 20,000 AFSCME members this month, a 1 percent increase in January 2012, a 2 percent increase in July 2012 and a 1 percent increase in January 2013. Although then Governor-elect Bradstad criticized the deal, which was done without entering into negotiations, Culver said that “by accepting the terms and not opening additional provisions of the contract to be negotiated, the state both reduced exposure of additional costs to Iowa taxpayers and also eliminated the possibility that the contract negotiation would be subject to costly arbitration proceeds.”

He added that typically collective bargaining agreements in other public jurisdictions in Iowa had been negotiated at 3 percent per year, and that the state agreement followed suit. For their part, AFSCME, which launched a successful lawsuit against a previous Branstad administration for not honoring binding arbitration decisions regarding pay increases, submitted a 10-page proposal to the state that only requested a single change, the base wage increases for the next two fiscal years.

The Culver administration also brokered a similar two-year contract with the State Police Officers Council before leaving office.

The Branstad transition team noted that their previous administration had turned such negotiations over to then incoming Gov. Tom Vilsack and that they had expected the same courtesy from Culver. At the time of the contract, Branstad chief Jeff Boeyink estimated that “the contract would put Iowa taxpayers on the hook for $103.5 million the first year alone” and hundreds of millions more in the subsequent fiscal years.

While campaigning in the 2010 gubernatorial election, Branstad repeatedly noted his desire to place public employee health insurance benefits and wage increases on the bargaining table.

“Now, after years of reckless and irresponsible budgeting by Gov. Culver, and millions in unsustainable pay raises, Danny Homan wants to grandstand and take political cheap shots,” Albrecht continued.

“Gov. Branstad recognizes public safety as a top priority, and increased funding to corrections by $25 million, after years of severe cuts by the Culver administration. Gov. Branstad’s action prevented hundreds of layoffs in the Department of Corrections. Unfortunately, this financial mess was caused by Danny Homan himself, who forced a massive, $30 million salary increase over the next two years in corrections alone with the sweetheart deal he cut with outgoing Gov. Culver. Danny Homan should stop lobbying reckless allegations and should come back to the negotiating table to fix the budget mess he created.”

(Editor’s Note: At 4 p.m. AFSCME Council 61 and Homan responded to Albrecht with the statement below.)

Again, I am not surprised that Governor Branstad has shown his true colors by blaming the representative of the middle class. This isn’t about Dan Homan, this is about the safety of the public and the safety of the workers that are in our correctional facilities. Governor Branstad needs to stop blaming workers for his failed policies that were enacted after the Legislature went home.

The increase in wages for AFSCME covered employees was the same that he voluntarily gave to his management and exempt employees, so his attempt to blame any of his failed policies on our contract just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and is an attempt to deflect the real issue here, prison understaffing.

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