DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Gov. Chet Culver huddled with key economic advisers, conceding the ravages the recession has dealt the state but saying he won't be driven by "doom and gloom" because there are early signs of recovery.
"I'm an optimist by nature," the governor said. "I have faith there are better times ahead."
That was the message the governor was getting from his key economic advisers, who generally said the recession is slowing, though a turnaround isn't likely until next year.
"I'm delighted to say that things look slightly stronger," said University of Iowa economist Charles Whiteman. "The general picture here is I'm very, very cautiously optimistic about the turn."
Whiteman noted that personal income is projected to fall by roughly 1 percent in 2009, but his forecast sees that number growing by about 1.2 percent next year. He said the biggest worry most economist have is employment, which is projected to remain tepid even into next year.
Iowa Workforce Development spokeswoman Ann Wagner said employment numbers underscore the depths of the recession.
The number of Iowans out of work, she said, has grown past 100,000 to a level not seen since the depths of the farm-based recession of the 1980s.
"Some of our numbers are coming close to the 1980s," said Wagner. "They seem to be slowing just a bit."
The governor sees at least one reason for optimism. Between flood recovery money, a big bonding program approved by the legislature this year and a federal stimulus program, billions of dollars will be flowing into the state and that should give the economy a boost.
"There is going to about $10 billion of economic activity and stimulus over the next 12 months," the governor said. "Every city and every county has already gotten road money."
He said there will be as many as 8,000 to 12,000 projects launched by that stimulus effort, and that's likely to boost the economy.
The sour economy has dominated Culver's agenda for most of the last year, and he was very cautious about the outlook, even as he said better times may be on the horizon.
"These remain difficult times," the governor said. "They may get even tougher before they get better."
Economic woes have caused budget headaches for Culver, but he defended the steps he's taken.
"When the budget needs to be cut, we'll make those cuts as necessary," the governor said. "We've begun a top-to-bottom review of state government operations. We have taken swift action to deal with the budget problem."
That budget and Culver's handling of it is likely to be the central issue of next year's gubernatorial campaign, and Republicans predictably had a different take.
"The fact of the matter is the budget is in horrible shape," said veteran GOP strategist David Roederer.
Rep. Christopher Rants of Sioux City, who is seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said the budget will be the campaign's central theme and argued that Culver is putting a bright face on a sour budget and economy.
"The governor continues to put politics above policy," said Rants. "He is not being straight with Iowans."
"We shouldn't focus exclusively on doom and gloom," Culver countered.