Governor Expresses Concerns Over Possible Budget Decisions

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds didn't offer a firm "yes" or "no" on Monday when asked if it was time for the state to sell its scandal-plagued Iowa Communications Network, but she did say the situation needs to be fully vetted.

A state audit found Richard Lumbard, who had been executive director of the ICN, misspent nearly $380,000. Lumbard got fired. Some lawmakers want to sell the ICN, which provides high-speed internet, data, and videoconferencing to state entities like libraries and schools. The revenue could help the state's troubled budget situation and some believe the ICN has outlived its purpose as private companies have expanded with similar services in the state.

But Reynolds said, "The other thing we need to be careful of is that there's no unintended consequences. The National Guard has a fairly significant footprint with the ICN and so we need to make sure it doesn't interfere with the way they're using the ICN."

Lawmakers during the Branstad administration also considered selling the ICN to a private buyer but couldn't find one with a suitable bid.

Reynolds also expressed concerns about emergency spending cuts Senate Republicans proposed last week. The $52 million in total cuts, include $4.8 million to the courts system, which administrators warn could mean closing 30 courthouses across the state.

Reynolds had earlier proposed $35 million in cuts, which included $1.6 million in reductions to the courts. Reynolds, who earlier in her career served as the county clerk in Clarke County, warned the Senate Republicans' planned cuts could cause disruptions. "It impacts their access to justice," she said, "So it would have an impact."

The governor also issue an executive order Monday that called for establishing the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning. The program would help connect students with opportunities--like job shadowing and internships--with existing businesses. It could help students learn about a career that could keep them in Iowa and could help businesses find future workers at a time when some are struggling to find qualified employees.

Here is a breakdown on the program's $250,000 cost:

--$100,000 for the project director through the Department of Education (would cover salary/benefits/travel).
--$100,000 for the Iowa Area Education Agencies to compile learning opportunities.
--$50,000 for Iowa Workforce Development to conduct a survey of anticipated business needs (for the first year only of the program).
--$50,000 for mini grants to create partnership projects (starting in the second year of the program).
The governor proposed the program would begin on July 1, 2019.