Iowa could have up to a $1 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year, but a state budget hearing Monday drew only two people, and the governor skipped the meeting to travel to Florida.
Richard Oshlo, interim head of the Department of Management, held the meeting after a hearing last week drew no speakers. Some argued the lack of participation was because the only public notice of the hearing was posted in the Capitol.
But Oshlo said he expected little interest in either hearing because the governor's office hasn't yet released a proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Aides said Culver didn't attend because he's traveling to Florida for the Orange Bowl, where the Iowa Hawkeyes will play Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
Wayne Nosbisch, of Greenfield, was one of those who spoke. He said Culver should offer a budget proposal soon because lawmakers have already announced plans to shorten this year's session to save money.
"Republicans and Democrats say the issue for this session is the budget," Nosbisch said. "It would make sense for everybody to put their cards on the table."
Oshlo said the governor is sticking to his plan to outline his priorities in his Jan. 12 Condition of the State speech and deliver a detailed budget by the end of the month.
The other speaker, Terry Wadle, of West Des Moines, asked why Culver hadn't worked to reduce spending earlier.
"There was a long list of recommendations made many, many months ago," Wadle said. "Did you guys have to wait until it was a crisis?"
Wadle said he decided to go to the Statehouse on a brutally cold day because he wasn't happy about how Culver was running state government.
"I think the problems the state has are the result of gross mismanagement," he said.
Culver spokesman Troy Price said it's more important to get the budget right than to submit a quick but flawed budget.
"The governor is going to take his time during a difficult budget year," Price said. "Now more than ever it's important the governor submits a balanced budget that protects the priority of Iowans."
The two speakers were far outnumbered by Culver aides, legislative staffers and reporters.
Nosbisch remarked on the lack of notice given for last week's hearing.
"Would the governor pledge to give the people and news media at least three days notice of a public hearing?" he asked.
Oshlo said the governor would operate within the state's open meetings requirements.
This year's legislative session is scheduled to last 100 days, but lawmakers have agreed to shorten it to 80 days to save money.
Price noted that decision only limits the number of days for which lawmakers are paid and said the Legislature will remain as long as needed to solve the state's budget crunch.
(This version CORRECTS the date of the Condition of the State speech to Jan. 12.)