JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday the books are closed on the fiscal 2017 state budget and people should stop playing “gotcha” politics with her decision to borrow $13 million to make it balance.
Last month, the governor ruled out calling a special legislative session after her budget officials determined the state ended fiscal 2017 with a $14.6 million shortfall that could be erased by transferring $13 million from the economic emergency fund and using a projected $1.6 million ending balance.
However, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, a Democrat, later questioned whether Reynolds’ money transfer violates Iowa law because it did not meet certain caveats. He said the emergency fund can be tapped only if state revenues fall short at least one-half of 1 percent more than predicted, which didn’t happen.
At her weekly news conference Monday, Reynolds, a Republican, said her administration followed the intent of state law. Fitzgerald, who sits next to her during weekly Iowa Executive Council meetings, never raised the issue with her until issuing a letter as the books were closing Sept. 30, she said.
“I would say I guess if the Legislature has a concern with it then they can hopefully address it or clarify it in the next legislative session,” she told reporters.
“But again I’ll tell you: I meet with Treasurer Fitzgerald every Monday at the Executive Board and I would hope that if he had a concern with that he could have brought that up to me,” the governor added. “We’ve got to communicate. We need to talk about this. We’re all serving the same taxpayer out there and this gotcha stuff has got to go away. That’s what I’m trying to do and I would just hope that everybody else out there would do the same thing.”
Reached later, Fitzgerald said that “I wasn’t playing gotcha politics.” He said he sent the letter before the books had closed, asking her to check that issue to make certain the budget met all the legal provisions.
“I think she should have,” the treasurer said. “It’s not an emergency if this isn’t met. To me, that’s a violation of the Iowa law. It’s a serious issue. In Iowa, we follow the law. If we don’t, we get in trouble.”
On Monday, Reynolds told reporters that “fiscal 2017 is closed; the budget is balanced and we are focusing on (fiscal 2018) and the future and that’s what we should be focused on.”