Vander Plaats: Culver’s Pay-to-Sit Health Care Forum Leaves Iowans Holding the Bag

SIOUX CITY – Gov. Chet Culver’s plan to have Iowa businesses, unions or interest groups pay to participate in a health care forum underscores his administration’s mismanagement of the state budget, Bob Vander Plaats said this afternoon.

Culver’s office has dropped a plan to have health-care interest groups pay $5,000 each to sponsor a health-care reform meeting after The Des Moines Register raised questions about the practice. The forum, set for next Monday, is being co-hosted by the White House. A Culver spokesman said Wednesday afternoon that “the White House today informed us that sponsorships are not going to be allowed.”

“Public-private partnerships have their place but our state government wouldn’t need to be out there holding a tin cup and begging for money if Chet Culver and legislative Democrats hadn’t mismanaged the state budget to the tune of $900 million in additional spending in just the last two years,” said Vander Plaats, who has formed a 2010 gubernatorial campaign committee. “The fact of the matter is that Iowans have been left holding the bag for the tremendous amount of unnecessary government growth just these last two years under Chet Culver. Under his watch, state government has 2,600 new full-time equivalent employees in just two years.”

He added, “Chet Culver apparently thinks it’s OK to steal a page out of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s playbook. The idea that he’d tell groups that they’d be guaranteed a place at the health care forum if they ponied up $5,000 is as brazen of a pay-to-play mentality as you’ll ever find.”

Culver spokesman Phillip Roeder said the governor’s office solicited 17 organizations, businesses or unions for money to defray the $30,000 cost of the event.

“I’m all for public-private cooperation and, as governor, I’ll look for innovative approaches to benefit Iowa taxpayers. But this quid pro quo of cash for a voice in a serious public policy discussion is just over the top,” Vander Plaats said. “If Governor Culver and legislative Democrats hadn’t overspent this year’s budget by $775 million they just might have been able to come up with their half of the $30,000 this event will cost.”

A White House spokeswoman said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be splitting the cost of the event with the state.

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