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News Analysis: January 24, 2008

posted on January 30, 2008 at 9:39 AM

Yeager: Right now we turn to Kay Henderson of “Radio Iowa.” Now, one small headline that came across our desk is the appointment of Iowa State University Professor of Personal Finance Tahira Hira to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. Now, viewers may remember Professor Hira’s appearance on “The Journal” just before Christmas when we talked about personal debt and personal finance. And all of our pocketbooks might get lined, Kay, with some money here soon from the federal government. But also at the state government, Governor Culver, you had a conversation with him today. What was he talking about with economic stimulus?

Henderson: Right. Governor Culver granted an interview to “Radio Iowa,” and that would be me today, to talk about a variety of issues.

The first topic was his call to some leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives. As some of your viewers may know, there appears to be a deal between Democrats and Republicans and the President in Washington, D.C., that would afford a tax rebate to many Americans, in the range of $300 to perhaps even as much as $1,200. Governor Culver, on behalf of the Democratic governors in the country – there are 28 – and also on behalf of the National Governors Association, has begun lobbying Congress to include in that package $12 billion specifically for states, on top of the money that they’re already speaking of. Half of that money, the governors would like to see used for Medicaid. Of course, that’s government paid health insurance for the needy. And the other half, the other $6 billion, the governors would like to see reserved for whichever – whatever the states would like to spend it on. That’s kind of an uphill battle.

As you may recall the last time we had an economic stimulus package from the federal government in this country, they did include payments to the states, and Iowa chose to use much of that money to start up a program called The Vision Iowa program, whereby huge grants or loans -- -

Yeager: All across the state.

Henderson: -- were given to businesses.

Yeager: And that was, you know, one thing -- Do you doubt that the state – Does Governor Culver feel confident that he’s going to get a blank check from the government in this?

Henderson: I think it’s an uphill battle at this point because it appears that on the federal level the forces are moving to work this through the system quickly because, you know, quickly to them means, maybe, Americans getting a check in March. So if they do something next week – Time is of the essence. If you have governors from around the country starting to lobby Congress, maybe there will be another piece of legislation. I’m not sure that this could get attached to this bill at this juncture, given what we heard and saw at the federal level today.

Yeager: The way it’s moving forward. Now, you also talked to the governor on a couple of other things, and one thing he did mention was Medicare. But Hawkeye has been a program that – S Chip at the federal level. The governor has taken it on the road, a road show of sorts. He’s in a couple of communities today. What’s he talking about?

Henderson: Well, Hawkeye is the Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa initiative. The State either provides a subsidy for insurance or helps obtain private insurance for a parent on behalf of a child at sort of a reduced rate. In regards to this, there are about 25,000 kids in Iowa who are eligible for this, but either a parent or a guardian of that child has not signed them up.

In the Governor’s budget plan, which he delivered to lawmakers earlier this month, he included enough money to cover about 7,500 of those 25,000 children, and now he and the head of the Department of Human Services, which helps administer this program, are out sort of beating the drum, encouraging, as the Governor said, Iowans to double and triple check to see if they are eligible for this help, if they’re a parent who has a child that doesn’t qualify for Medicaid but might be in an income category where they could get this assistance to buy insurance for their child.

Yeager: Okay. I want to talk two political names in Iowa.

Henderson: Okay.

Yeager: One, Ed Fallon in a little bit, but first Bill Salier. He ran for Senate a couple of years ago. He delivered a petition today about gay marriage and impeaching a judge. A little background on that story, and what did that petition mean?

Henderson: Right. The judge’s name is Robert Hanson. He’s a Polk County District Court Judge and, as your viewers may remember, he’s the judge that handed down the ruling which said gay couples have a right to marry in Iowa, based on his reading of the Constitution. That case has now been appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. And these petition signatures, which Bill Salier and his supporters have captured, calling for that judge’s impeachment.

The Iowa Civil Liberties Union was right on the scene saying, you know, this is taking it one step too far. There is little indication that the democratic-led legislature is inclined to, you know, do the mechanics of what it takes to impeach a district court judge in Iowa.

Yeager: And it’s now going through the Supreme Court, this issue, and what the judge’s ruling was, not the petition. But I mean this story is far from over on many fronts. And one story -- It always seems like we’re talking about elections, and this one is about Congress. The Central Iowa District with Leonard Boswell who operates that scene. Now, Ed Fallon announced, who ran for governor, lost the democratic primary to Chet Culver, went against Mike Blouin as well. Fallon now is popping up and saying, hey, I think I want to run for Congress. I wonder if the Governor does have a take on this now.

Henderson: The Governor does have a take on this. Last week Senator Tom Harkin said he was backing Leonard Boswell in this fight, and today Governor Culver told me that he’s backing Leonard Boswell in this fight, for a variety of reasons that he cited. For instance, he referred to Leonard Boswell’s service in Vietnam -- He’s a decorated war veteran -- and his years of service. And he said something interesting: As long as he wants -- and he wants to serve, he should have the ability to do that. So that was a fairly interesting way to put it because, as we all know, Congressman Boswell is not a young chicken these days.

Yeager: He’s 74.

Henderson: Yeah. Ed Fallon is a younger, fresher voice, but he also has a problem in this primary because a lot of the people who will vote in the democratic primary are people who pay close attention to Democratic Party politics. And Ed Fallon backed Ralph Nader, and I think that’s really going to come back to hurt him.

Yeager: We’ll see how that plays out.

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