DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – An Iowa Democrat hauled the state’s Republican governor to court Monday for using emergency reserves to patch a nine-digit budget gap.
Represented by the law firm Dickey & Campbell, Iowa Rep. Christopher Hall filed his petition for injunctive relief with a state district judge in Polk County.
The target of his lawsuit, Gov. Kimberly Reynolds, assumed office just this past May. Reynolds is Iowa’s first female governor but has made headlines for her struggles in academia. The mother of three received her bachelor’s degree just six months before taking the gubernatorial reins from Terry Branstad, who left office after President Donald Trump made him ambassador to China.
In his 6-page petition, Hall says Reynolds has resorted to illegal budget transfers to gloss over her mismanagement.
Though Hall accuses Reynolds of letting the bottom fall out of what was nearly a billion-dollar budget surplus in 2013, a spokeswoman for Reynolds dismissed the suit as a political.
“Everyone agrees the state budget needs to be balanced – which it now is – and Governor Reynolds is focused on the upcoming legislative session,” spokeswoman Brenna Smith said.
Hall’s attorney Gary Dickey denied the charge. “Not a single Democrat created these circumstances,” Dickey said in an interview.
The petition notes that Iowa’s “budget problems came to a head on July 3, 2017, when the nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency identified an estimated $104 million shortfall in the ending balance of the State General Fund for fiscal year 2017.”
Hall says there was one budget-balancing option at Reynolds’ disposal: convening a special session of the Iowa General Assembly where she could seek legislative appropriations. While legal, the petition says this option “would have created a political problem for Governor Reynolds by drawing attention to her inability to adequately manage the state’s fiscal affairs.”
Reynolds and her budget director, David Roederer, instead dipped into the state economic emergency fund, transferring $13 million to the state general fund on Sept. 28, 2017.
Calling this move illegal, Hall says the state law governing such transfers “distinguishes between budget shortfalls that are the product of true economic emergencies from those that are the foreseeable result of years of fiscal mismanagement.”
A day after Gov. Reynolds signed the Sept. 28 transfer proclamation, according to the complaint, "Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald sent a letter to Governor Reynolds informing her that she would not be in compliance with the law if she transferred the money from the state economic emergency fund.”
Alleging conspiracy and misuse of appropriations, Rep. Hall wants the transfer declared illegal and voided.
Detailing the governor’s budget mismanagement, Hall says Iowa went “from a $927 million budget surplus in fiscal year 2013 to a $259 million budget gap requiring reductions, transfers, and adjustments in fiscal year 2017.”
Insisting that the state’s economy is not shrinking economy, Hall notes that Iowa enjoyed a growing gross domestic product and low unemployment during the same time period.
“Instead, the budget gap is the result of several years of appropriating more revenue than taking in and excessive corporate tax giveaways,” the complaint states.
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