A last minute Republican-sponsored budget bill introduced this week at the statehouse should ensure that Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds has the resources she needs to take over as governor.
Reynolds will assume the office when Governor Branstad leaves to become U.S. Ambassador to China.
At the request of the Branstad/Reynolds administration, the bill appropriates $150,000 for transition expenses.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) says with so many budgets getting cut this year, the request was carefully considered:
“All of these went into the considerations that we deliberated over but we're transitioning to the first female governor in Iowa history and we don't want to shortchange this transition,” Schneider said. “We don't want to shortchange the transition period.”
Schneider said the Branstad administration did not spell out how the money would be spent.
“This is for expenses incurred during the transition and has not been broken down by number,” said Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes in a statement. “If the money is not needed, it will be returned.”
“What they did is they let us know what had been appropriated for transition expenses in the past and this was close to that amount,” Schneider said.
The $150,000 is significantly more than the $25,000 appropriated when the Vilsack/Pederson administration took office in 1999, according to the Vilsack scheduler at the time.
“We were all slammed into the old legislative dining room and a couple of the volunteers worked out of an old food pantry,” said Matt Paul in a text message.
That year the legislature appropriated the money when it wasn’t clear whether Democrat Tom Vilsack or Republican Jim Ross Lightfoot would be taking office.
According to a spokesman for Governor Branstad, the Chet Culver administration was appropriated 170-thousand dollars for their transition in 2008.
Democratic budget-writers questioned this year's $150,000 appropriation in a year when state agency budgets are being cut.
“While the state is in the middle of a big budget mess, it is extravagant and unnecessary to spend $150,000 to move Lt. Governor Reynolds from one room in the Capitol to another room in the Capitol,” wrote Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) in a statement.
“In a year when they are cutting services to domestic violence victims, it is appalling that Lt. Governor Reynolds wants to throw a transition party paid for by this state’s working families,” said Rep. Chris Hall (D-Sioux City) in an e-mail.