OELWEIN, Iowa – Gov. Terry Branstad invoked President Harry Truman while responding to questions about the impact of his vetoes of more than $100 million in Legislature-approved spending affect human services programs.
“The buck stops with me,” Branstad said in Oelwein Thursday when questioned about his veto of $13 million in mental health transition funds for counties.
“I’m in mourning,” retired social worker Ann Bunn of Maynard told the governor at a town hall-style meeting at the Community Center. The $13 million in “tide-over” funding was needed by the counties to avoid service cuts or waiting lists for counties functioning under a newly redesigned mental health services delivery system.
Bunn was surprised by the veto because Branstad has supported mental health services in the past and seemed supportive of the transition from a county-based service delivery system to a regional network that will be fully operational by fiscal 2015.
“The governor has done a lot, but he fell short on this,” she said.
“I vetoed a lot more than that, but that’s my job” to see that state funds are spent responsibly, Branstad said. “It’s easy for politicians to promise everything to everybody. It’s hard to say ‘No.’”
He’s not willing to accept the consequences of saying “Yes” to every funding request and see Iowa fall into the same fiscal traps as Illinois, for example.
Restoring stability and predictability to the state budget was a campaign promise, Branstad said. He told the audience of about 50 people that as a result of his budget management the state is in the strongest financial position in years. In addition to a balanced budget, the state has restored money to the cash reserves, nearly eliminated the use of one-time money for ongoing expenses and spent just 97 percent of the revenue it collected.
Although he received a round of applause for that rosy financial report, Bunn was not convinced. She’s concerned people with chronic mental health issues will end up in the corrections systems or on the street without access to services.
Branstad also fielded more questions about his veto of funds for Iowans with brain injuries. More than 700 Iowans are on a waiting list for services, but the governor was skeptical of funding every waiting list for every service.
“If we fund every waiting list, the state would be bankrupt,” he said.
Tough decisions are part of his job, Branstad said.
“You can never please everybody and you never get everything you want,” he said. “I can’t say ‘yes’ to everyone who wants more.”
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