Gazette Editorial Board
Iowa lawmakers created the Iowa Public Information Board amid much fanfare about the importance of transparency and the public’s right to know what its government is doing.
It turns out what their government may be doing is crippling the board by slashing its funding.
It took several years to convince state lawmakers to create the Public Information Board, which is supposed to assist citizens in holding local governments accountable in cases where officials fail to follow open meetings and records laws. That means investigating cases, which takes staff and dollars.
Gov. Terry Branstad included $490,000 in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal, which is enough to get the board up and running after July 1. That’s pretty close to original estimates that the board would cost about $500,000 annually.
But the Iowa House voted to slash Branstad’s proposal to just $100,0000. Board Chairman Bill Monroe says that’s not enough money to do the board’s job. That’s the job that, we assume, lawmakers wanted it to do when it was created.
For those of us who argued for years of the need for the board, this is a puzzling and frustrating development. We’ve seen several instances in recent years of governmental entities sidestepping openness laws. Iowans still need strong advocates to help them address these serious issues without having to wage a long and costly court battle. Providing educational resources to local governments outlining their obligations remains important. So it makes no sense to shortchange this relatively low-cost effort, especially as the state sits on a massive budget surplus.
We’re hoping that the Iowa Senate gets that, restores the governor’s dollars and sends a clear message to the House that the board must be fully funded.
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