DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad defended his decision to veto some funding for public safety pensions and mental health services, telling reporters Monday that he wants changes to the pension systems and that the state has provided ample funding for mental health services over the past two years.
Branstad last week vetoed provisions backed by the General Assembly to put $91.3 million into the public safety retirement fund, and an additional $18.9 million into the judicial retirement fund. He also vetoed a plan to provide $13 million to counties for mental health services as they transition to a new regional system
The moves have been criticized by Iowa Democrats, who say the Republican governor should be funding retirement benefits and health programs.
Branstad had no specific suggestions for changing the pension systems but said during a news conference Monday that a "thoughtful review" was needed. Branstad noted that many private sector companies have shied away from offering defined-benefit retirement plans, like pensions, in recent years.
"I feel a responsibility to the citizens and the taxpayers of Iowa to make sure that we're looking at the long-term financial health and well-being of the state," Branstad said.
The public safety fund currently has about 61 percent of the dollars needed to pay projected pension obligations and the judicial fund has 69 percent.
On the mental health decision, Branstad also noted that federal funds will soon be available as part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
"We believe counties have been treated very fairly in this process," Branstad said.