Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vaudt says Iowa may want to decline some fed stim dollars

State Auditor Dave Vaudt, a potential GOP candidate for governor in 2010, says Iowa shouldn’t hold out a fully opened hand where federal stimulus monies are concerned.

In fact, like a fellow Republican, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Vaudt said the state should consider the nearly $1.9 billion expected to flow to Iowa through the package in cafeteria style — taking millions here but potentially leaving money on the table elsewhere if he thinks the short-term gain would give birth to unwieldy bureaucracy down the road.

“I would sort through each piece of the stimulus package and try and say ‘where does it fit Iowa the most,’” he said.

Over the next three years Iowa is expected to receive about $1.9 billion through the federal stimulus. For his part, Jindal, a leading presidential candidate for 2012, says he’d turn down about $90 million in unemployment benefits he thinks will create a new business tax in Louisiana.

Vaudt didn’t cite specific programs but said he might not take certain federal stimulus dollars if he were governor of Iowa.

“Especially if the area that it is says that we have to spend more money and that we’re going to have to sustain that level of spending and I don’t think Iowa can support that sustained level of spending,” Vaudt said in the interview at the Carrollton Centre following a session with the Carroll Rotary Club.

As the man elected to monitor state spending, Vaudt (pronounced vow-dt) has no authority to turn down stimulus dollars.

But that could change.

Vaudt is on the short list of candidates Republicans are now unofficially vetting for a possible run at Democratic Gov. Chet Culver.

“I’ve told those that have asked me to consider it that I will do that by the time the end of (the legislative) session gets here to make some preliminary decisions,” he said.

A certified public accountant who has been state auditor since 2003, Vaudt acknowledges that he’ll have to roll out positions on social issues to emerge from what could be a highly competitive GOP primary.

When asked about what many in his party view as a litmus test, abortion, Vaudt said, “I’ve really taken no stances on those other than I’m a very conservative person. So when it comes to the conservative side of things I’m definitely there.”

Vaudt said voters could expect “standard” conservative positions from his possible campaign.

“I’m definitely a pro-life person,” Vaudt said.

He would, however, makes exceptions for abortions in the case of rape and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

“I think all those things need to be considered and because I haven’t focused as much on those issues I haven’t given it as much thought so I need to spend more time coming through with those,” Vaudt said.

But in these economic times Vaudt may have the credential voters are looking for in a candidate. He’s been traveling the state talking about finances.

“The public in the last election cycle was very concerned about the recession and the impact on people’s paychecks,” he said. “We need to make sure that we’re relating to that.”

The GOP in Iowa should organize around both economic and social issues, Vaudt said.

“The fiscal side is someplace we’ve lacked in the last few election cycles,” Vaudt said.

Overall, Vaudt said Iowa needs to buckle down and focus on core missions and make sure government is providing only those services the private sector can’t.

“We’ve gotten a little bit out of control,” Vaudt said. “Everybody was having fun in the good times and spending goes up during those times so we need to rein it back in and say what can we really afford long term.”

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