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Auditor says Iowa budget relies on surplus dollars

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 11:01 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s budget proposal uses surplus fund dollars to cover some expenses, State Auditor Mary Mosiman said Monday.

Mosiman provided a review of the Republican governor’s budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. She said that a complete analysis of state spending and revenue projections shows that the state will spend $144 million more than it takes in. Mosiman said that means the state needs to tap the nearly $900 million budget surplus to balance the books.

Mosiman, a Republican whom Branstad appointed to the position last year after the previous auditor resigned, did not say if the state should make cuts or other changes, stressing that she was just making sure Iowans understood the budget.

“We have to keep in mind the simple commonsense rule, ‘Don’t spend more than you take in,’” she said.

“I’m simply reporting it to Iowans, so that everyone is aware,” she later added.

Branstad last month rolled out a roughly $7 billion general fund budget, with few new expenditures. The legislature and Branstad approved two big-ticket spending items last year — a property tax cut and new education spending. Branstad has said that the surplus would be needed to help pay for those efforts.

Under Mosiman’s analysis, the state spending is actually higher, coming in at nearly $7.4 billion. She acknowledged that the state has a sizable surplus and that the governor and lawmakers must decide how to use that.

“We have a significant surplus balance, it should be used for something,” Mosiman said.

Mosiman praised the governor for continuing to reduce the use of one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses.

Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said in an email that their analysis shows that the state is on track to spend less than the available funding. He also noted that the governor’s five year budget projection is balanced, so there is “predictability and stability” to the process.

Lawmakers are currently reviewing Branstad’s budget plan and a final agreement will be reached later this year.

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