One of candidate Terry Branstad’s pledges was to end the popular past gimmick of transferring funds from one state account to another to meet obligations. Properly, he advocated for more sound budget practices.
For that reason, we side with Gov. Terry Branstad in signalling to the state Legislature an unwillingness to embrace such gimmickry to meet unpaid bills for indigent legal defense totaling some $18 million. He’s right when he tells the House and Senate it’s their place to find the money to pay those bills.
The Senate on Tuesday voted to accept a House plan under which Branstad would be given transfer authority to move money from one place to another within the state budget to pay the indigent defense costs. In other words, legislators washed their hands of the subject.
Not only is it unacceptable for Iowans who by contract provided the state with legal services for the indigent to go unpaid (According to a Tuesday Des Moines Register story, some Iowa lawyers are owed more than $10,000 and have had to lay off employees as a result.), but it isn’t acceptable for the Legislature to punt on their responsibility for payment.
In short, this game of chess in which Iowa attorneys and those who work for them are pawns should end.
In the name of honoring a campaign promise, Branstad should veto the plan sent to him by the Legislature. In the name of meeting their obligation for control of state pursestrings, legislators should then find money to pay the bills.