November 21, 2010

Name That Party: In Iowa, With Lame Duck Raise-Granting Dem Governor, Drudge Does, Des Moines Register Doesn’t

namethatpartyThe seemingly endless variety of “name that party” stunts has yet another wrinkle.

In this case, Matt Drudge is currently linking to a Des Moines Register story (“Culver OKs state pay raises”; also saved here at host for future reference) about how outgoing Iowa Governor Chet Culver has decided to rush through union contracts granting thousands of state employees 3% raises (before considering “step” raises that occur with seniority) in each of the next two years before Republican Governor Terry Bransted takes over in January.

The headline for Drudge’s link is “Lame duck Dem governor in Iowa OKs $100 million in raises for state workers.” Actually, it’s $100 million a year for the next two years. But the linked Register article by Jason Clayworth never identifies Culver’s Democratic Party affiliation, even though he tags the governor’s opposition as Republican twice in the first two paragraphs. In other words, not that it was difficult to show that Culver is a Dem, but Drudge had to figure it out and tell his readers — and we thank him for that.

Here are excerpts from Clayworth’s clunker:

Gov. Chet Culver’s administration agreed Friday to offer pay increases for state employees that will cost taxpayers more than $200 million, despite Republican requests that the decisions be delayed until Terry Branstad becomes governor in January.

A Branstad spokesman called the deal “reckless,” and House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen said it would likely lead to layoffs.

But Culver defended the decision, noting that most state employees took at least five unpaid days in the past year along with suspension of employer deferred compensation contributions.

… Union members will formally meet to accept or reject the state’s offer later this month, but Danny Homan, president of Council 61 for AFSCME, said: “In my mind, this is done.”

The wage hike plan would give members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, better known as AFSCME, two raises in each of the next two fiscal years.

Those employees would receive a 2 percent wage increase on July 1, 2011, and another 1 percent the following Jan. 1. They would receive identical raises in the following year.

In addition, many union members who are not at the top of their pay grade would receive an additional 4.5 percent raise, known as a step increase, for certain professional milestones or for job longevity and other career advancements.

The total cost of the contract is estimated at around $200 million over two years, based on previous data released by the state department of management.

“The state accepted the union’s proposal,” said Homan. “I believe that probably ends this process.”

How nice.

Clayworth goes on to note that some employees will see raises as high as 15% in the next two years, and that “Iowa is one of only six states to offer free health insurance to state government employees and their families.” He also failed to give readers a picture of Iowa’s fiscal situation, which is not as good it first appears, according to this report two weeks ago from Rod Boshart, reporting from Des Moines for the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette:

Newly named Iowa House Republican leaders said Monday they plan to reopen the current state budget when they take power in January with an eye on cutting “several hundred million dollars” slated to be spent by June 30.

“We’re going to look for opportunities to reduce spending in the current year’s budget and we’ll be doing that on day one,” said Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, who was elected to be the next House speaker by the incoming 60-member GOP majority. “I think there is several hundred million dollars in the current year’s budget of marginal or no value to Iowans.”

… Paulsen said the message his caucus received from voters in the Nov. 2 election was that Democrats who held full control of state government spent too much money and its time to scale back government. He said the list probably would include ongoing Gov. Chet Culver’s Power Fund initiative and a number of other proposed cuts that GOP legislators previously offered but were rejected by majority Democrats.

… Last month Paulsen requested Culver instruct state department directors to freeze all discretionary state spending pending a budget review by lawmakers when they convene Jan. 10. Paulsen said he was concerned the current budget is built on more than $700 million in one-time funding sources, but Culver administration officials said the governor did not have the authority to impose a freeze on program funding unless the state had a budget deficit and current projections call for the state to end the fiscal year June 30 with a sizable surplus.

Paulsen said he was disappointed by the response, saying “I took it as a signal that Gov. Culver wanted to continue spending money at the same rate.”

Boshart also didn’t directly tag Culver as a Democrat, but he made it clear that Democrats “had full control of state government” until the November 2 elections occurred, which is good enough in the circumstances.

The same can’t be said for Jason Clayworth and the Register, who were too busy making sure readers know that meanie Republicans don’t want to hand out raises to bother telling readers that the lame-duck governor who is spending money the state won’t have is a Democrat. If Bransted is forced into layoffs, does anyone think that the Register will fail to remind readers that he’s a Republican?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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