Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds defended Governor Terry Branstad's veto of $500,000 allocated to funding Iowa's food bank network yesterday while rolling out a fundraising drive for the Food Bank of Iowa.
Responding to a significant drop in private donations to food banks and increased rates of food insecurity, the Iowa House and Senate allocated $500,000 from the Health and Human Services budget for fiscal year 2013 to the Iowa Food Bank Association. However, Branstad used his item veto power to remove that appropriation, saying private donations should support food banks. He didn't consult with key legislators or anyone from the Iowa Food Bank Association to learn more about the proposed funding before striking that language from the bill.
Lieutenant Governor Reynolds presided over the governor's regular Monday morning press conference yesterday, as the governor and First Lady Chris Branstad celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Pat Curtis reported for Radio Iowa that Reynolds defended Branstad's item veto and discussed an upcoming fundraising drive to benefit the Food Bank of Iowa.
She said private donations are the best way to support the Food Bank. "It really needs to be driven by the private sector. Sometimes when the government takes over and starts putting in place an appropriation, other people kind of step back and think the need is not there to continue to help and support the effort," Reynolds said.
Food Bank of Iowa executive director Carey Miller joined Reynolds at today's statehouse news conference. "Today, the need for emergency food assistance is greater than ever," Miller said. "We have over 400,000 Iowans who are food insecure - meaning they lack the resources for enough food to live healthy and active lifestyles."
Miller refused to criticize the governor's decision. "I know there are difficult decisions that need to be made and I know the governor and lieutenant governor will continue to support our organization," Miller said.
Obviously Miller's not going to criticize the governor's veto. Like Jordan Vernoy, state director for the Iowa Food Bank Association, Miller needs to make the best of a bad situation and probably hopes to secure some state funding next year.
Reynolds added at the press conference,
"I don't know how many times I've been with Carey over the last year at different organizations to highlight what wonderful contributions corporations have given to the Food Bank of Iowa," Reynolds said. "We'll continue to do that, but it'll be privately-led and publicly endorsed, as well as state employees doing everything they can to help make a difference."
Reynolds noted that Branstad has supported the Food Bank's mission for decades. "The governor, in 1983 I think it was, started the annual food drive for state employees and it's still going strong today," Reynolds said.
The annual food drive for state employees is a laudable endeavor, but bragging about what Branstad did for food banks 30 years ago hardly makes up for what he did to them last month. In 38 other states, food banks receive some support from the state budget. A few states managed to increase this funding in response to rising rates of poverty and hunger. I hope the upcoming fundraising drive is successful, but I don't see it as a substitute for state support when food insecurity is a growing problem, affecting approximately one in five Iowa children. In any event, the Food Bank of Iowa is just one of eight food banks around the state that would have benefited from the funding Branstad vetoed. Also, some of that money would have been used for fresh produce and other healthful food items that are difficult to secure through private donations.
The Iowa Senate released this comment on Reynolds' remarks yesterday:
Branstad Administration should recognize funding benefits to the Iowa Food Bank
Statement by Senator Jack Hatch, chair of Health & Human Services Budget
"The statement today by Lt. Governor Reynolds in support of the Governor vetoing $500,000 to the Food Bank of Iowa does not acknowledge the $27 million gap in funding that private sector contributions have not closed.
"Iowa kids are going to school hungry, coming home hungry, going to bed hungry. That's why the Health & Human Services Budget, which had bipartisan support from legislators, included the $500,000 in state funds. We want to join with the private sector and encourage more fundraising.
"The Governor's veto leaves a cloud hanging over all fundraising efforts."
That sounds about right to me. Many private entities receive some state funding or grants to supplement other fundraising. I've never heard of staff from non-profit organizations worrying that support from a state, federal, or local government would impede their efforts to raise money from private donors.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.