Iowa Public Television

 

Senate's Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal

posted on March 14, 2005

Borg: THE FOCUS NARROWS. IOWA LEGISLATORS, WITH THE HELP OF A FUNNEL DEADLINE, HAVE DECIDED WHICH PENDING BILLS SURVIVE FOR POSSIBLE FLOOR DEBATE. INSIGHT FROM THE SENATE'S DEMOCRATIC LEADER, MIKE GRONSTAL, ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."


FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, MARCH 11 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: LAST WEEK YOU RECALL ON THIS PROGRAM WE DISCUSSED LEGISLATIVE ISSUES WITH THE IOWA SENATE'S REPUBLICAN LEADER, STEWART IVERSON OF DOWS. TODAY HIS DEMOCRATIC COUNTERPART JOINS US. MIKE GRONSTAL OF COUNCIL BLUFFS LEADS THE SENATE DEMOCRATS, WHO SHARE POWER IN THE EVENLY SPLIT 25/25 IOWA SENATE. SENATOR GRONSTAL, WELCOME BACK TO "IOWA PRESS."

Gronstal: PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

Borg: WE'RE GOING TO SEE HOW THAT EVEN SPLIT THAT YOU SAID WAS GOING TO WORK SO WELL IS COMING ALONG.

Gronstal: WE'LL TALK ABOUT THAT. WE'LL TALK ABOUT THAT.

Borg: ACROSS THE TABLE WITH THOSE QUESTIONS: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN, AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL, LAST WEEK THE REPUBLICAN LEADER SAID THEY THEY ARE NOT SLAMMING THE DOOR, IN THEIR WORDS, ON A PROPOSED CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE. ARE YOU READING THAT AS AN ASSUMPTION THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE AND WE'RE JUST TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH AND HOW WE'RE GOING TO SPEND IT?

Gronstal: FIRST OF ALL, I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH IT'S GOING TO BE. I THINK THE PROCESS IS STILL IN THE STATE OF FLUX. BUT I WOULD SAY IT WAS REPUBLICANS LAST YEAR, WHEN THEY WERE STRUGGLING THROUGH A MEDICAID BUDGET, IT WAS REPUBLICANS LIKE MAGGIE TINSMAN AND DAVID HEATON THAT WERE SAYING LET'S NOT DO THE CIGARETTE LAST YEAR, LET'S SAVE IT FOR NEXT YEAR. THEY'VE BEEN -- A NUMBER OF THEIR MEMBERS HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT A CIGARETTE TAX FOR QUITE A WHILE, AND ALL OF THE PRIVATE INDICATIONS WE HAVE IS THAT THEY'RE GOING TO BE WILLING TO -- WILLING TO CONSIDER SOME LEVEL OF CIGARETTE TAX IN THIS STATE.

Glover: SO NOW WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT IS NOT "IF" THERE'S GOING TO BE A CIGARETTE TAX; WE'RE NOW TALKING ABOUT HOW BIG A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE AND HOW WE SPEND IT.

Gronstal: I THINK -- YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT'S LIKELY, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S AUTOMATIC. I THINK -- I THINK THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION IS HIGHLY UNPREDICTABLE AS TO WHERE WE'RE GOING TO END UP IN THIS PROCESS. I'VE BEEN A LITTLE SURPRISED AT THE NUMBER OF ISSUES THAT KIND OF FELL BY THE WAYSIDE THIS WEEK IN THIS FUNNEL --

Glover: WELL, DEAN TOUCHED ON THAT IN HIS INTRODUCTION, AND YOU WERE ONE OF THE BIG OPTIMISTS BEFORE THIS SESSION THAT 25/25 WAS GOING TO FORCE THIS LEGISLATURE TO WORK TOGETHER, IT WAS GOING TO FORCE THE SENATE TO FIND COMPROMISE, TO FIND COMMON GROUND. THAT HASN'T HAPPENED, SENATOR.

Gronstal: WELL, I THINK -- I THINK THE FORMER REPUBLICAN MAJORITY, I THINK THEY ARE TESTING OUR METAL RIGHT NOW. I THINK THEY'RE LOOKING AT US SAYING -- AND I DON'T THINK THEY'RE PURSUING COMMON GROUND. I THINK THEY'RE SAYING WHAT CAN WE GET WHERE WE GET THIS AND THEY GET THAT, AND THEY'RE TESTING US ON OUR PRINCIPLES AND ON THE THINGS -- ON OUR BELIEFS THAT WE HOLD DEEPLY. AND SO THEY'RE TESTING US RIGHT NOW, SAYING CAN WE HOLD THE IOWA VALUES FUND HOSTAGE FOR "A," "B," AND "C." AND I THINK THEY'RE TESTING US RIGHT NOW, AND I THINK THAT'S OKAY. I THINK THAT'S APPROPRIATE. THEY'VE GOT TO MEASURE OUR METAL RIGHT NOW. WE'RE MAKING IT CLEAR TO THEM THAT WE'RE NOT GOING TO GIVE UP OUR PRINCIPLES AND THAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR COMMON GROUND. AND I THINK THAT'S PART OF WHAT HAS STALLED SOME OF THIS PROCESS. THEY'RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF THEY CAN GET US TO CROSS LINES IN TERMS OF OUR PRINCIPLES. WE'RE LOOKING FOR THOSE PLACES WHERE THERE'S CLEAR, BROAD AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES.

Borg: WELL, WHAT'S THE --

Yepsen: EXCUSE ME, SENATOR. WHAT'S LIKELY HERE AT THIS POINT? THERE'S EITHER THE SCENARIO OF GRIDLOCK, 25/25 AND NOTHING GETS DONE, OR YOU DO IT LITTLE LOGROLLING WHERE YOU GET SOME OF WHAT YOU WANT AND REPUBLICANS GET SOME OF WHAT THEY WANT. THAT'S THE WAY THE PROCESS WORKS.

Gronstal: BUT -- AND I AGREE WITH THAT, DAVID. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH LOGROLLING, BUT THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH GIVING UP THE PRINCIPLES AND GIVING UP THE ISSUES YOU RAN ON YOUR CAMPAIGNS FOR. AND WE'RE GOING TO DO THAT; WE'RE GOING TO KEEP OUR WORD ON OUR CAMPAIGN. WE SAID WE WERE GOING TO IMPROVE EDUCATION, WE SAID WE WERE GOING TO CREATE A JOBS PROGRAM, AND WE SAID WE WERE GOING TO DEAL WITH HEALTH CARE ISSUES. AND WE'RE GOING TO STAY ON THOSE.

Yepsen: I WANT TO GO BACK TO --

Gronstal: WE COULD -- WE COULD -- YOU KNOW, WE COULD TAKE THE IOWA VALUES FUND. THEY WANT TO ATTACH A BUNCH OF THE THINGS TO IT. WE COULD TAKE IT AND SAY, HEY, WE'VE GOT TO HAVE MINIMUM WAGE, WE'VE GOT TO HAVE -- WE'VE GOT TO HAVE BETTER LABOR LAWS IN THIS STATE. WE COULD GO THROUGH A WHOLE SET OF THINGS AND HOLD IT HOSTAGE TOO, BUT THERE IS -- YOU KNOW IT AND I KNOW IT; THERE IS COMMON GROUND ON PASSING AN IOWA VALUES FUND THIS YEAR. SO LET'S SIT DOWN AND WORK IT OUT. THEY WANT TAX CREDITS; I THINK WE'LL WORK WITH THEM. BUT IF THEY'RE TAX CREDITS FOR LOW-WAGE, LOW-SKILLED JOBS WITH NO BENEFITS WHERE THE STATE ENDS UP PAYING FOR THE HEALTH CARE OF THOSE PEOPLE, WE'RE NOT GOING TO GO ALONG WITH THAT.

Yepsen: SENATOR --

Gronstal: THE TAX CREDIT FOR A HIGH-PAYING JOB THAT HAS DECENT BENEFITS, WE'RE MORE THAN WILLING TO LOOK AT THAT AS COMMON GROUND.

Yepsen: SO THE VALUES FUND AND TAX CREDITS, THAT COULD BE THE LOGROLLING.

Gronstal: THAT'S EASY FOR US --

Yepsen: WE'LL GET TO SOME OF THOSE IN A MOMENT. I WANT TO -- BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER, I WANT TO GET TO POLITICS RIGHT UP TOP. YOU'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR. YOU TOLD ME THAT SOME TIME AGO. WILL YOU RUN FOR GOVERNOR?

Gronstal: DAVID, YOU SAID VERY NICE THINGS IN YOUR COLUMN A FEW WEEKS AGO ABOUT MY SKILLS IN THE LEGISLATURE. AND I THINK IF YOU LOOK, I'M WEARING A TAILORED SUIT WITH A FASHIONABLE TIE. I TOOK THE SUGGESTIONS THAT WERE IN YOUR COLUMN IN TERMS OF MY IMAGE. I'M DEALING WITH THAT. I HAVE SAID FROM THE START -- AND I'VE SAID THIS TO MY CAUCUS AND I'VE SAID IT TO ANYBODY THAT HAS ASKED. I'VE SAID IT TO CHET CULVER. I'VE SAID IT TO MICHAEL BLOUIN. I'M GOING TO DO THIS SESSION, THE JOB I WAS ELECTED TO DO LAST FALL BY MY MEMBERS, TO BE THE DEMOCRATIC LEADER. I'M NOT GOING TO SPEND THIS SESSION LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER WONDERING IF THIS IS SMART GUBERNATORIAL POLITICS. I'M GOING TO RUN THIS SESSION AND TRY AND ACCOMPLISH AS MUCH AS WE CAN THIS SESSION. AND I STILL THINK THERE'S A LOT OF HOPE -- A LOT OF OPPORTUNITY TO ACCOMPLISH GOOD THINGS THIS SESSION. BUT I'M GOING TO RUN THIS SESSION, DO THE JOB I WAS ELECTED TO DO, AND THEN I'M GOING TO THINK VERY SERIOUSLY AFTER THE SESSION IS OVER ABOUT WHETHER THAT'S A COURSE -- I HAVE A PASSION FOR PUBLIC POLICY. I HAVE A LOVE OF THIS STATE. I'VE SEEN GREAT THINGS HAPPEN THAT I'VE HAD A HAND IN IN MY COMMUNITY IN TERMS OF GROWTH. I'VE GOT A DAUGHTER THAT LIVES IN COUNCIL BLUFFS. I'VE GOT ANOTHER DAUGHTER I HOPE ENDS UP LIVING IN COUNCIL BLUFFS. I'VE BEEN WORKING TO MAKE OUR COMMUNITY GROW FOR THE LAST 23 YEARS IN THE LEGISLATURE. I HAVE A PASSION FOR PUBLIC POLICY. THAT PASSION -- THAT PASSION CAN BE EXERCISED IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE. IT CAN BE EXERCISED IN THE LEGISLATURE. BUT I'M GOING TO CONTINUE TO PURSUE THAT PASSION. I WILL MAKE THE DECISION ON GOVERNOR SOMETIME THIS SUMMER AFTER A SET OF EVALUATIONS. THIS SESSION I'M TRYING TO DO -- I'M TRYING TO KEEP OUR CAMPAIGN PROMISES FROM LAST FALL.

Yepsen: SO YOU MAKE THE DECISION SOMETIME THIS SUMMER. SENATOR, WHY WOULDN'T YOU? YOU'RE MID FIFTIES. THE GOVERNORSHIP IS OPEN. YOU KNOW, WHOEVER WINS THE GOVERNORSHIP --

Gronstal: DAVID, YOU KNOW --

Yepsen: -- IS GOING TO BE THERE FOR EIGHT YEARS OR TWELVE YEARS. ISN'T THIS YOUR SHOT?

Gronstal: BOY, THAT'S THE SPEECH I'M GIVING TO PEOPLE THAT ARE ASKING ME ABOUT THIS. THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR ME TO CONSIDER. IT'S A PERFECT TIME IN MY LIFE TO CONSIDER IT. IT IS AN OPEN SEAT. I HAVE TWO WONDERFUL DAUGHTERS THAT I'M VERY PROUD OF. MY DAUGHTER SARAH IS STUDENT TEACHING. SHE'S AT HER ORIGINAL SCHOOL, BLOOMER GRADE SCHOOL, STUDENT TEACHING THIS WEEK. NEXT WEEK SHE MOVES TO ANOTHER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN COUNCIL BLUFFS. I'M VERY PROUD OF MY DAUGHTERS AND --

Borg: BUT SHE'S NOT RUNNING. YOU'RE RUNNING.

Gronstal: WHAT I'M SAYING IS THAT IN TERMS OF MY LIFE, THE TIMING IS PRETTY GOOD. MY KIDS ARE DONE WITH COLLEGE, SO IT'S AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY. YOU'VE GOT TO CONSIDER A HOST OF THINGS: CAN YOU RAISE THE MONEY; CAN YOU WIN THE PRIMARY; CAN YOU WIN THE GENERAL; WHO ARE THE OTHER PLAYERS THAT ARE GOING TO BE IN THE RACE? I'M NOT MAKING THOSE EVALUATIONS RIGHT NOW.

Yepsen: AS I SAY, SENATOR, AS I HEAR YOUR ANSWER TO THIS, IT SOUNDS TO ME LIKE YOU'RE LIKELY TO RUN. IS THAT A FAIR ASSESSMENT FOR US TO DRAW FROM THIS?

Gronstal: AS I'VE TOLD YOU, I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS RIGHT NOW.

Yepsen: WELL, I UNDERSTAND THAT --

Gronstal: I'M GOING TO WAIT UNTIL THE SESSION IS OVER.

Yepsen: -- BUT AS YOU WAY IT OUT, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE MORE --

Gronstal: I'M EXCITED. I'D SAY THIS: I'M EXCITED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY.

Borg: LET'S GO BACK TO THAT VALUES FUND. YOU BROUGHT IT UP INITIALLY SO LET'S GO -- AND YOU CALLED IT -- IMPLIED IT'S BEING HELD HOSTAGE. DO YOU THINK -- IT JUST BARELY SQUEAKED THROUGH THE FUNNEL YESTERDAY --

Gronstal: AND ONLY IN THE HOUSE.

Borg: THAT'S RIGHT. BUT IT'S STILL ALIVE. DO YOU -- GO AHEAD.

Gronstal: WELL, IT'S STILL ALIVE AND THERE ARE SEVERAL ISSUES THAT DIDN'T COME OUT ON THE SENATE SIDE. THE FRAMEWORK FOR THE VALUES FUND, THE STATUTORY BILL FOR THE VALUES FUND, A FRAMEWORK FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, NEITHER OF THOSE CAME OUT OF COMMITTEES ON THE SENATE SIDE. SO IT'S IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO REMEMBER, OUR PROCESS -- EVEN THOUGH THE FUNNEL SAYS THOSE POLICY COMMITTEES ARE DONE NOW, BOTH OF THOSE BILLS WOULD INVOLVE THE APPROPRIATION OF MONEY. AND AT SOME POINT IN TIME, WE'LL HAVE AN APPROPRIATIONS BILL IN FRONT OF US WHERE WE CAN REVISIT THOSE ISSUES. I DO THINK FOR THE LAST TWO MONTHS, REPUBLICANS HAVE BEEN TESTING US, AND I DON'T HOW YOU CAN'T DESCRIBE IT AS HOLDING HOSTAGE ON THE VALUES FUND. THAT'S WHAT THE LAST THREE YEARS HAVE BEEN ABOUT FOR REPUBLICANS: WHAT CAN WE GET THIS GOVERNOR TO SIGN THAT WE WOULDN'T GET ANY OTHER WAY; BUT HE WANTS THIS VALUES FUND, SO WE CAN MAKE HIM SIGN SOME THINGS THAT OTHERWISE HE WOULDN'T SIGN. THAT'S NOT OUR APPROACH TO THIS SESSION. OUR APPROACH IS NOT WE'LL DO SOMETHING THAT WE HATE IF YOU'LL DO SOMETHING. THERE IS COMMON GROUND. I HAVE HAD MORE REPUBLICANS APPROACH ME, MORE REPUBLICANS APPROACH ME IN THE IOWA SENATE ABOUT HOW WE CAN GET A VALUES FUND. AND THEY UNDERSTAND WE'RE NOT GOING TO GIVE UP OUR PRINCIPLES. WE'RE NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR THINGS THAT WE THINK ARE BAD. BUT THERE IS DRAMATIC COMMON GROUND THERE. WE CAN DO TAX CREDITS.

Glover: SENATOR, LET'S LOOK AT THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THIS LEGISLATURE SO FAR. THEY'RE PRETTY MEAGER. THE PROSPECTS FOR A LOT OF PIECES OF THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN TALKED ABOUT EARLY IN THE YEAR LOOK PRETTY DIM. ISN'T THIS IN FACT GOING TO BE A LEGISLATURE THAT MAYBE THERE'S A VALUES FUND AND NOT MUCH ELSE?

Gronstal: YOU KNOW, I'M ALWAYS THE OPTIMIST.

Glover: YEAH, BUT YOUR OPTIMISM HASN'T BEEN BORNE OUT TO THIS POINT, AND I'D LIKE TO YOU DEAL WITH THAT.

Gronstal: WELL, LET ME SAY A COUPLE OF THINGS. ONE IS THE WHOLE ISSUE ABOUT PROPERTY TAX, LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM, THAT ISSUE IS ALIVE AND WELL. A COMMITTEE OF A DOZEN PEOPLE MEETING WITH THE GOVERNOR ESSENTIALLY EVERY MONDAY, THEY'VE NOT REACHED THEIR DEADLINE -- THEIR SELF-IMPOSED DEADLINE OF BY THE END OF MARCH OF HAVING A PRODUCT THAT THEY PUT OUT. THERE IS STILL OPPORTUNITY THERE. THERE ARE OPPORTUNITY ON EDUCATION ISSUES, ON TEACHER QUALITY, ON EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, ON HEALTH CARE. I THINK THERE ARE GOING TO BE SOME DRAMATIC OPPORTUNITIES IN THIS SESSION ON HEALTH CARE AS WE LOOK AT SOLVING SOME OF THE MEDICAID PROBLEMS. SO I THINK THERE'S LOTS OF TIME LEFT TO COME UP WITH A VERY, VERY SUCCESSFUL SESSION.

Yepsen: ALL RIGHT, SENATOR, YOU'VE SUGGESTED THAT THERE'S A TRADEOFF BETWEEN THE VALUES FUND AND SOME TAX CREDITS AND THAT THAT COULD BECOME LAW. WHAT ARE THE PIECES ON PROPERTY TAXES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM YOU JUST MENTIONED? WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF THAT DEAL?

Gronstal: WELL, LET ME JUST SAY, I THINK THERE'S BOTH THE POTENTIAL FOR A LARGE KIND OF GLOBAL MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ON SOME OF THOSE ISSUES, AND I ALSO THINK THERE IS A FALLBACK BUT PRETTY DRAMATIC OPPORTUNITY FOR -- SINCE THERE'S NO MAJORITY PARTY IN THE LEGISLATURE, THIS ROLLBACK -- THE ROLLBACK IS A GREAT ADVANTAGE FOR HOMEOWNERS. IT MEANS THAT THEY'RE ONLY PAYING ON 47 PERCENT OF THE VALUE OF THAT HOME.

Yepsen: RIGHT. AND THOSE LEGISLATORS AREN'T GOING TO WANT TO RAISE PROPERTY TAXES.

Gronstal: BUT THAT'S A DRAMATIC ADVANTAGE IN OUR TAX CODE FOR HOMEOWNERS. THE ADVANTAGE BALANCES OUT ON THE OTHER SIDE WITH A PRETTY DRAMATIC SHIFTING OF TAXES TO COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL SECTOR, WHICH MEANS IT'S LESS LIKELY YOU'LL HAVE A JOB TO PAY THE PROPERTY TAXES IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Glover: BE CAREFUL, SENATOR, WE'RE PAYING THE PROPERTY TAXES AT THE END OF THIS MONTH.

Gronstal: WE'VE GOT -- BUT WE'VE GOT TO HAVE THAT DISCUSSION WITH IOWANS ABOUT BOTH THAT STRENGTH IN OUR SYSTEM AND THE FACT THAT IT IS ALSO A WEAKNESS IN OUR SYSTEM. AND IT'S THE KIND OF ISSUE THAT NO MAJORITY PARTY WOULD EVER WANT TO TAKE ON BECAUSE ANY MAJORITY WORTH ITS SALT WOULD CRITICIZE THEM. THERE IS NO MAJORITY. THERE IS NO MINORITY. THAT'S AN ISSUE THAT I'M WILLING TO PROVIDE LEADERSHIP ON AND SAY TO THE REPUBLICANS, WHY DON'T YOU JOIN US AND WE COME UP WITH A SOLUTION TO THAT PROBLEM.

Yepsen: SENATOR, REWORKING PROPERTY TAXES IS NOT DONE OVERNIGHT. TO MIKE'S QUESTION ABOUT WHAT WILL YOU GET ACCOMPLISHED, ISN'T THAT SOMETHING WE CAN SEE THIS LEGISLATURE SAY, WE'LL GET STARTED THIS SESSION, WE'LL WORK ON IT OVER THE SUMMER AND TRY TO COME BACK NEXT YEAR AND DO SOMETHING?

Gronstal: I THINK THAT -- YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT'S CERTAINLY POSSIBLE THAT WOULD HAPPEN. BUT I WOULD PREFER US TO TAKE SOME CONCRETE STEPS. BUSINESSES IN THIS STATE ARE REALLY TAKING A HIT. WE'VE GOT TO RECOGNIZE THAT THAT'S A PROBLEM IN OUR TAX CODE. WE'VE GOT TO BE RESPONSIVE TO THAT. AND IF YOU DISCONNECT RESIDENTIAL FROM "A," YOU WOULD SEE A SLOW, VERY MODEST INCREASE IN RESIDENTIAL VALUES. AND AS IT IS RIGHT NOW, IT IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO SHIFT AWAY FROM HOMEOWNERS TO THE COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL SECTOR, AND THAT'S GOING TO POISON OUR OPPORTUNITY FOR JOB GROWTH IN THIS STATE. AND WE'RE WILLING TO LOOK AT THAT, AND WE'RE WILLING TO -- YOU KNOW, I THINK I COULD GET 20 DEMOCRATS TO VOTE FOR THAT. I WOULD HOPE STEW IVERSON WOULD GET 20 REPUBLICANS TO VOTE FOR THAT. AND IT WOULDN'T CHANGE THE PROBLEM OVERNIGHT, BUT OVER TIME IT WOULD SHIFT IT BACK TO A MORE EVEN KEEL ON PROPERTY TAXES. AND THAT WOULD BE GREAT FOR JOB GROWTH, AND IT WOULD BE A GREAT MESSAGE TO SEND TO BUSINESSES IN THIS STATE.

Glover: TURNING DAVE'S QUESTION ON ITS EAR, ISN'T THE THOUGHT OF DOING SOME KIND OF A STUDY AND WE'LL COME BACK AND REVISIT THIS NEXT YEAR DOOMED FROM BEGINNING? NEXT YEAR IS AN ELECTION YEAR, SENATOR. IF THINGS ARE TOUGH THIS YEAR, THEY ARE GOING TO GET EVEN TOUGHER NEXT YEAR, AREN'T THEY?

Gronstal: I THINK THAT DEPENDS. I THINK WE'VE HAD ELECTION YEARS WHERE WE HAVE PRETTY EFFECTIVELY TAKEN ON SOME CHALLENGES IN IOWA. AND SOMETIMES THAT'S WHAT THE VOTERS WANT, A FEW LEADERS THAT HAVE THE GUTS TO TAKE ON SOME TOUGH ISSUES. SO I DON'T THINK THAT RULES THAT OUT, THAT NEXT YEAR IS AN ELECTION YEAR.

Yepsen: SENATOR, A QUICK QUESTION. WE ASKED SENATOR IVERSON LAST WEEK ABOUT THIS. CONFIRMATIONS, THE SENATE HAS TO CONFIRM GUBERNATORIAL APPOINTMENTS. HE SAID THAT THE ONLY ONE IN TROUBLE WAS WAYNE SAWTELL'S APPOINTMENT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. IS THAT YOUR READING OF THE CONFIRMATION PROCESS UP THERE?

Gronstal: MY READ IS WE'LL GET EVERYBODY CONFIRMED. THAT'S MY READ AND THAT'S MY GOAL. AND I TALKED LAST WEEK -- I DID A POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE, AND I SAID -- I TOLD THEM I HUMBLY BUT RESPECTFULLY ASK YOU TO RECONSIDER YOUR POSITION ON THAT. HE HAS GREAT QUALIFICATIONS.

Borg: YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT WAYNE SAWTELL.

Gronstal: WAYNE SAWTELL. HE HAS GREAT QUALIFICATIONS TO THE D.O.T. I WENT BACK A LITTLE BIT IN HISTORY FOR SOME OF THEIR MEMBERS THAT DON'T KNOW HISTORY. GOVERNOR BRANSTAD APPOINTED SOMEBODY TO THE D.O.T. THAT HAD LOST TO A DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE HERE IN DES MOINES. GOVERNOR BRANSTAD APPOINTED HIM AND THERE WAS SOME RESISTANCE IN OUR CAUCUS. I REMEMBER SITTING ON A BENCH TALKING WITH YOU ABOUT THIS. THERE WAS SOME RESISTANCE AMONGST DEMOCRATS TO DOING THAT, AND WE THOUGHT ABOUT TAKING HIM DOWN.

Yepsen: WE SHOULD SPECIFY FOR OUR VIEWERS, WAYNE SAWTELL RAN FOR THE STATE SENATE AND LOST TO REPUBLICAN LARRY MCKIBBEN.

Gronstal: REPUBLICAN LARRY MCKIBBEN. WE HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME CIRCUMSTANCE, ONLY IN REVERSE. IN THE END, WE CALMED DOWN. WE CALMED DOWN. I BOUGHT SOME TIME PROCESS WISE SO PEOPLE HAD THE TIME TO CALM DOWN. WE CALMED DOWN AND IN THE END WE CONFIRMED THAT PERSON.

Yepsen: WELL, WHAT ABOUT THE BOARD OF REGENTS? SPECIFICALLY THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF TURMOIL ON THE REGENTS. WILL YOU -- DO YOU EXPECT THE NEW REGENTS TO BE CONFIRMED?

Gronstal: I THINK YOU'LL START SEEING US CONFIRM SOME OF THOSE PEOPLE NEXT WEEK.

Glover: AND PART OF THE TURMOIL THAT'S BEEN GOING ON AT THE BOARD OF REGENTS IS THIS WHOLE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS THAT THE BOARD OF REGENTS, UNDER JOHN FORSYTH, STARTED TO IMPOSE ON PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: WE'LL GIVE YOU SOME EXTRA MONEY; YOU HAVE TO FIND SOME EFFICIENCIES; YOU HAVE TO HOLD TUITION WITHIN THE RATE OF EDUCATIONAL INFLATION AND SO FORTH. A BIG DEAL FOR THE UNIVERSITIES. ARE YOU CONFIDENT --

Gronstal: AND A BIG DEAL FOR STUDENTS IN IOWA AS WELL.

Glover: EXACTLY. AND ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT THESE FIVE NEW REGENTS THAT YOU'RE GOING TO CONFIRM, A MAJORITY OF THE BOARD WILL CONTINUE THE STATE DOWN THAT PATH?

Gronstal: I AM VERY CONFIDENT THEY WILL CONTINUE DOWN THAT PATH. WE HAVE HAD THOSE DISCUSSIONS WITH THEM. EACH OF THE REGENTS APPOINTEES ARE COMING BEFORE THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE. THOSE QUESTIONS ARE BEING ASKED PUBLICLY IN THOSE MEETINGS. BUT BOTH IN PUBLIC CONTEXT AND IN PRIVATE CONTEXT, THAT'S THE INDICATION I HAVE FROM EVERY -- I HAVEN'T TALKED WITH ALL OF THEM -- ALMOST ALL OF THEM. THAT'S THE INDICATION I HAVE FROM EVERY ONE OF THEM.

Glover: AND HOW MUCH --

Gronstal: SO, YES, WE WILL MOVE FORWARD IN THAT DIRECTION. I THINK THE GOVERNOR PICKED SOME VERY TALENTED, VERY QUALIFIED PEOPLE THAT ARE GOING TO PRESS THROUGH WITH THOSE --

Yepsen: SENATOR, THERE'S A LOT OF RESISTANCE IN UNIVERSITY TOWNS TO THIS TRANSFORMATION BUSINESS. THOSE BUREAUCRACIES DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY DO ANYTHING. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT THEY'LL BE ABLE TO KEEP THOSE PROMISES?

Gronstal: THE REGENTS BE ABLE TO KEEP THOSE PROMISES?

Yepsen: YES.

Gronstal: OH, LISTEN, WE HOLD THE PURSE STRINGS. THE LEGISLATURE HOLDS THE PURSE STRINGS, AND THE LEGISLATURE IS TIRED OF DOUBLE-DIGIT INFLATION INCREASES. AND THE REGENTS, JOHN FORSYTH PUT TOGETHER A GREAT DEAL -- A GREAT DEAL FOR IOWA STUDENTS, AND I THINK THE LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO RESPOND. BUT THAT MEANS WE HAVE TO HOLD UP OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOO. THEY NEED US TO FUND THEIR SALARY BILL AND THEY NEED -- AND THEY NEED ADDITIONAL OPERATIONS APPROPRIATIONS. THE SENATE DEMOCRATS ARE COMMITTED TO PROVIDING THAT.

Glover: BUT WILL THE LEGISLATURE END UP LIVING UP TO ITS END OF THE DEAL? THE LEADERS I TALK TO UP SAY THERE'S NO CHANCE THAT YOU'RE GOING TO GIVE $40 MILLION A YEAR EXTRA TO THE REGENTS. IT'S GOING TO BE LESS THAN THAT, SIGNIFICANTLY LESS THAN THAT.

Gronstal: THEN I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE A PRETTY DIRECT CONNECTION THAT THOSE THAT VOTE AGAINST THAT $40 MILLION ARE THE ONES THAT SAY GO AHEAD AND RAISE TUITIONS DOUBLE DIGITS. I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE A PRETTY CLEAR CONNECTION.

Glover: WELL, WHERE DO YOU THINK IT WILL END UP?

Gronstal: I THINK WE'RE GOING TO END UP DOING $40 MILLION. I THINK THAT'S WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR. I THINK WE'RE WORKING ON BUDGETS THAT FUND OUR PRIORITIES, FUND WHAT WE SAID TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA LAST FALL -- WE SAID IT AND THE REPUBLICANS SAID IT TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA LAST FALL. HIGHER EDUCATION IS BECOMING UNAFFORDABLE BUT NOT JUST AT THE REGENTS, AT OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND PRIVATE COLLEGES AS WELL.

Yepsen: SENATOR --

Gronstal: COMMUNITY COLLEGE TUITIONS ARE THE HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY. WE'RE 172 PERCENT OF THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, AND ALL OF US COMPLAINED ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ABOUT THAT. ALL OF US CANDIDATES, REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS, SAID WE'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING, AND WE'RE GOING TO DO IT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE GOT WAY TOO MANY QUESTIONS AND TOO LITTLE TIME. METHAMPHETAMINE, WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE OUTCOME OF THAT WHOLE DEBATE? A LOT OF TALK --

Gronstal: THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE IS GOING TO MEET. WE IN THE SENATE ATTEMPTED TO PROVIDE SOME BALANCE -- SOME BALANCE TO DRAMATICALLY REDUCE ACCESS TO ILLEGAL METHAMPHETAMINE COOKERS AND STILL PRESERVE SOME ACCESS FOR PEOPLE THAT LEGITIMATELY NEED THESE DRUGS. SO THE SENATE -- AND I WOULDN'T EVEN TELL YOU IT'S A PERFECT BALANCE. IT'S GOING TO GO TO A CONFERENCE COMMITTEE, AND THEY'RE GOING TO WORK FURTHER ON THAT BALANCE AND WE'RE GOING TO PASS WHAT WILL BE NO MATTER -- ALMOST NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO, WHAT WILL BE THE TOUGH -- ONE OF THE TOUGHEST, IF NOT "THE" TOUGHEST BILLS ON METHAMPHETAMINE IN THE COUNTRY.

Glover: DO LEGISLATORS GET THE POLITICS OF METH? I TALKED TO SOME LOBBYISTS LAST WEEK THAT SAID THAT YOU DON'T. IN FACT, THEY SAID THE POLITICS OF METH ARE YOU FIND THE TOUGHEST BILL YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON AND YOU VOTE FOR IT AND YOU DON'T ASK QUESTIONS. PEOPLE IN RURAL IOWA, THEY TELL ME, DON'T CARE ABOUT CASEYS OR QUIK TRIP OR HY-VEE OR ACCESS TO COLD MEDICINE AT TWO IN THE MORNING. THEY'VE GOT A METH HOUSE NEXT DOOR, AND THEY WANT IT GONE.

Gronstal: WE DON'T CARE ABOUT THOSE PLACES EITHER. WE CARE ABOUT A LAW --

Glover: THEN WHY DO YOU JUST --

Gronstal: -- THAT WORKS TO STOP THE PRODUCTION OF METH IN THIS STATE FROM THOSE OVER-THE-COUNTER DRUGS. AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE WORKING ON AND THAT'S WHAT THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE WILL WORK ON AND THAT'S WHAT WE WILL END UP WITH IS THE TOUGHEST -- ONE OF THE TOUGHEST IF NOT "THE" TOUGHEST BILLS IN THE COUNTRY. THAT'S WHAT THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE WILL REPORT OUT.

Glover: THERE'S NO SEGUE; MEDICAID, A TOUGH ISSUE, A LOT OF MONEY. OTHER THAN PROVIDING THE MONEY TO PAY FOR THE INCREASED COSTS OF THE MEDICAID PROGRAM IN IOWA, WILL THIS LEGISLATURE DO ANYTHING TO STAVE OFF FUTURE COST INCREASES? WILL YOU MAKE STRUCTURAL CHANGES TO MEDICAID?

Gronstal: I THINK THERE'S A GOOD CHANCE WE WILL. WE'RE WORKING WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RIGHT NOW TO -- AS YOU KNOW, THERE'S THE WHOLE ISSUE OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL TRANSFERS, THAT FUNDING MECHANISM WHERE WE DRAW DOWN EXTRA FEDERAL DOLLARS. THE FEDS ARE LIKELY TO CLAMP DOWN ON THAT. WE ARE -- WE ARE HAVING CONTINUED DISCUSSIONS WITH WASHINGTON, D.C., ON THIS ISSUE. WE KIND OF GET THAT -- WE'VE GOT TO GET THAT PIECE RESOLVED. HOW MUCH ARE WE TO GET AND THEN --

Yepsen: EXCUSE ME. CUT TO THE CHASE. WHICH OPTIONAL SERVICES THAT ARE PROVIDED TO POOR IOWANS TODAY IS THIS LEGISLATURE PREPARED TO GET RID OF TO MAKE UP FOR THAT FEDERAL MONEY THAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO LOSE?

Gronstal: WE'RE GOING PUT -- LISTEN, WE ACTUALLY HAVE A PRETTY GOOD MEDICAID SYSTEM IN THIS STATE. WE SPEND ABOUT 13 PERCENT OF THE STATE BUDGET ON MEDICAID. EVERY STATE AROUND US SPENDS OVER 20 PERCENT OF --

Yepsen: THAT'S TRUE, SIR. BUT MY QUESTION IS, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO GET RID OF.

Gronstal: BUT MY ANSWER IS WE'VE DONE BETTER THAN EVERYBODY.

Yepsen: AND YOU'VE STILL GOT A PROBLEM.

Gronstal: AND I DON'T THINK -- I DON'T THINK IT'S A QUESTION OF WHAT SERVICES WE'RE GOING TO GET RID OF. I THINK IT'S A QUESTION OF HOW WE'RE GOING TO PROVIDE MORE EFFECTIVE HEALTH CARE. I THINK WE'VE GOT TO TARGET CERTAIN DISEASES THAT ARE A HUGE COST. I THINK WE'VE GOT TO DEAL WITH HYPERTENSION. I THINK WE'VE GOT TO DEAL WITH DIABETES. I THINK WE'VE GOT TO DEAL WITH LIFESTYLE CHANGES OF PEOPLE. YOU KNOW, IF EVERYBODY WOULD RUN FOR OFFICE AND LOSE 25 POUNDS LIKE I DID WHEN I RAN FOR OFFICE -- SERIOUSLY, IF WE COULD HELP PEOPLE LEARN EXERCISE AND WEIGHT CONTROL CAN DRAMATICALLY REDUCE THE COST OF TREATING DIABETES AND THE COST OF TREATING HYPERTENSION IN THE STATE, WE COULD HAVE A DRAMATIC IMPACT ON THE COST.

Glover: WITH THE PASSING OF THE FUNNEL DEADLINE LAST WEEK, AN ISSUE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR DEBATE THIS YEAR THAT HASN'T BEEN FOR YEARS, AND THAT'S THE STATE'S BOTTLE DEPOSIT LAW. GIVE ME A PREDICTION. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO END UP WITH? ARE WE GOING TO EXPAND IT? ARE WE GOING TO RESTRICT IT? ARE WE GOING TO GET RID OF IT?

Gronstal: MY SENSE -- AND I HAVE WORKED ON THOSE ISSUES AND SEEN A LOT COME AND GO IN THE LAST TEN YEARS, AND I WOULD TELL YOU MY SENSE IS IT'S NOT A TRUCE WE HAVE AMONGST THE PEOPLE THAT WANT TO EXPAND IT, THE PEOPLE THAT WANT TO GET RID OF IT, IT'S NOT A TRUCE BUT IT IS A CEASE-FIRE THAT THE LEGISLATURE WILL PROBABLY COME TO STALEMATE ON THAT ISSUE. SO I'M NOT CONFIDENT THAT ONE -- THAT ONE IN THE END WILL MOVE FORWARD. BUT WE DO HAVE A VEHICLE AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK ON.

Glover: ARE YOU GOING TO ARM IOWANS TO KILL SOME DEER?

Gronstal: I THINK -- I THINK OVERALL THE LEGISLATURE RECOGNIZES THAT THERE IS -- THAT THE DEER -- THE LEGISLATURE BELIEVES THE DEER HERD IN THIS STATE IS TOO BIG, AND WE'RE WORKING WITH THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY AND TRYING TO DEAL WITH THAT.

Borg: THANK YOU, SENATOR GRONSTAL. WE'RE GOING TO BE TAKING AN "IOWA PRESS" BREAK. THERE WILL BE NO PROGRAM NEXT WEEKEND, BUT TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY WE'LL BE BACK WITH U.S. SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY AS OUR GUEST. SENATOR GRASSLEY, AS CHAIR OF THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE, HAS A MAJOR ROLE IN HIGH-PROFILE LEGISLATION ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AGENDA. AND YOU'LL SEE THAT PROGRAM FRIDAY MARCH 25 AT 7:30, REBROADCAST AT NOON ON SUNDAY MARCH 27. MARCH IS SLIPPING AWAY FAST. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.


CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING DES MOINES, IOWA FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

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