AASHTO Journal, 15 July 2016
The Iowa Department of Transportation is cutting staff positions and closing some facilities across the state, the Des Moines Register reported, after the state Legislature in its 2016 session approved a lower budget increase than the administration requested.
“I think people will feel or see that impact as we work through the year,” DOT Director Paul Trombino told the Register. The story said IDOT will leave 67 positions unfilled by 2018, and that in turn will create staffing shortages that the department will address by closing two driver’s license stations and seven regional maintenance garages.
Trombino said some people in Iowa will have to travel farther to driver’s license offices and that it will take IDOT longer to clear snow from some roads.
The closures takes effect Sept. 1, the story said, and the 28 employees at those facilities will be given the option to relocate to other IDOT facilities.
The Register also said that Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61, released a statement July 12 saying: “Whether it’s the older Iowan who needs to renew their license and now has to travel much further than they’re comfortable, or the kids needing to get to school after a snowstorm, the impacts of these closures will be dangerous.”
The story said IDOT’s budget became an issue in the Legislature this spring as lawmakers tried to complete budget agreements before they adjourned. The initial IDOT request sought a $9.7 million increase, the Register said, “to cover costs associated with collective bargaining agreements, merit pay increases and state employee insurance contracts. Gov. Terry Branstad also included that increase in his January budget proposal.”
However, the story said, “despite warnings from DOT officials that anything less than that amount could result in layoffs and closures, many House Republicans were skeptical those results would materialize. Many said they thought it was inappropriate for the department to ask for nearly $10 million for salaries the year after the Legislature voted to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents per gallon.”
They eventually reached agreement with Senate Democrats to provide a smaller increase of $4.85 million. “Trombino said that was not enough to sustain the department’s operational costs,” the story said, “even though staff has been significantly reduced in recent years.”
The Register reported that IDOT officials said the agency had cut staff 29 percent since 1997 for a total of 1,133 positions, leaving it with a workforce of 2,699.