Iowa Public Television

 

Scott Raecker

posted on December 12, 2005

Yepsen: AT THE IOWA STATEHOUSE, THE COUNTDOWN TO THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION OF 2006 CONTINUES. WE DISCUSS THE AGENDA WITH THE NEW CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, SCOTT RAECKER, ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

FUNDING FOR "IOWA PRESS" WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DAVID YEPSEN.

Yepsen: ACTIVITY IN AND AROUND THE IOWA STATEHOUSE IS BEGINNING TO PICK UP AS THE SECOND SESSION OF IOWA'S 81ST GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS ON THE HORIZON. ONE MONTH FROM NOW, LAWMAKERS CONVENE FOR THEIR 2006 SESSION. AND THERE IS ONE NEW KEY PLAYER ON THE SCENE, REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT RAECKER, A REPUBLICAN FROM URBANDALE WHO'S BEEN CHOSEN TO HEAD THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMITTEES IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. REPRESENTATIVE RAECKER, NOW IN HIS FOURTH TWO-YEAR TERM, WILL CHAIR THE 25-MEMBER COMMITTEE, WHICH CONTROLS THE PURSE STRINGS. REPRESENTATIVE RAECKER, WELCOME TO IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK.

Raecker: THANKS FOR THE INVITATION, DAVID.

Yepsen: ALSO WITH US AT THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE ARE KAY HENDERSON, NEWS DIRECTOR WITH "RADIO IOWA," AND MIKE GLOVER, SENIOR POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE REPORTER WITH THE "ASSOCIATED PRESS."

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE RAECKER, THERE'S A GOOD DEAL OF PRESSURE ON THE STATE'S BUDGET THIS YEAR. STATE REVENUES HAVE PICKED UP A BIT. THE ECONOMY IS GETTING A LITTLE BETTER. EVERYBODY IS ACTING LIKE THERE'S SOME MONEY TO SPEND. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW OF THE CONDITION OF THE STATE'S BUDGET?

Raecker: WE'VE GOT ABOUT A $5-BILLION BUDGET IN THE STATE, AS YOU KNOW, MIKE. AND AS WE LOOK FORWARD INTO THE NEXT SESSION, REVENUES ARE UP. THE REVENUE ESTIMATING CONFERENCE WILL MEET ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, TO GIVE US THE FIGURE THAT WE'LL BE USING AS OUR BASE LINE FOR THE NEXT BUDGET. THE CURRENT BUDGET YEAR WE'RE RUNNING ABOUT 3.1 PERCENT OF REVENUES, WITH A PROJECTION OF 1.5 PERCENT FOR THE END OF THE YEAR. THERE SHOULD BE -- RIGHT NOW IT LOOKS LIKE ABOUT $200 MILLION OF ADDITIONAL REVENUE AVAILABLE. BUT THAT'S A MISNOMER TO THINK THAT WE'VE GOT NEW MONEY AT OUR DISPOSAL, BECAUSE OF PREVIOUS COMMITMENTS MADE BY THE LEGISLATURE OF BUILT-IN EXPENSES. WE'VE GOT ABOUT $100 MILLION FOR THE ALLOWABLE GROWTH FIGURE WE DID A YEAR AGO. WE'RE ANTICIPATING ABOUT $150 MILLION IN THE MEDICAID NEEDS. WE'VE GOT A SALARY PACKAGE THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY NEGOTIATED THAT WILL BE ABOUT $83 MILLION. THOSE THREE ITEMS ALONE TAKE US OVER $330 MILLION OF NEW EXPENSES THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN COMMITTED WITH $200 MILLION IN NEW REVENUE. SO WE HAVE OUR CHALLENGES IN FRONT OF US, BUT I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT WE'LL BE ABLE TO PASS A BALANCED BUDGET THAT MEETS EVERYBODY'S NEEDS.

Glover: SO ANY NEW MONEY YOU'RE GOING TO GET IS ALREADY SPENT.

Raecker: ANY NEW MONEY THAT WE HAVE, DEPENDING ON WHAT THE R.E.C. COMES BACK TO THE TABLE WITH ON MONDAY, IS PROBABLY ALREADY PREVIOUSLY COMMITTED.

Glover: AND THE REPUBLIC LEGISLATIVE LEADERS IN THE HOUSE LAST SESSION BLOCKED GOVERNOR VILSACK'S PROPOSED INCREASE IN THE CIGARETTE TAX. HE HAS SAID HE'S GOING TO PROPOSE THE SAME INCREASE AGAIN FOR THE NEXT SESSION. CAN WE ASSUME IT WON'T PASS IN THE HOUSE?

Raecker: THAT'S MY ASSUMPTION AND THAT'S THE PREMISE THAT I'LL BE WORKING OFF OF AS APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR. SPEAKER RANTS INDICATED AGAIN THIS WEEK THAT THE TOBACCO TAX WILL NOT BE DEBATED IN THE HOUSE. MY JOB AS APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR IS GOING TO BE TO TRY AND MAKE THAT BUDGET WORK IN A PROCESS THAT HAS EVERYBODY AT THE TABLE SO THAT AFTER THE 100TH DAY OF THE SESSION WE'VE GOT A BUDGET IN PLACE THAT MEETS IOWANS' PRIORITY NEEDS.

Henderson: THIS PAST WEEK THERE WAS A SURVEY WHICH REVEALED THAT IOWA'S AVERAGE TEACHER PAY RANKED 41st IN THE NATION, A DECLINE FROM THE PREVIOUS RANKING OF 38th. WHAT WILL REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS IN THE HOUSE PROPOSE IN REGARDS TO BOOSTING TEACHER PAY?

Raecker: WELL, WE'RE GOING TO TAKE SOME SERIOUS LOOKS AT THAT ISSUE. IT IS A CONCERN TO IOWANS. I'M A PARENT OF YOUNG CHILDREN MYSELF THAT ARE IN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM. WE WANT OUR TEACHERS TO BE ADEQUATELY PAID. I DON'T EVER GET TOO CONCERNED OR HUNG UP ON THE ACTUAL PERCENTAGES OF THESE REPORTS BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER FACTORS THAT CAN GO INTO THAT: WHETHER YOU'RE 41st OR 36th, IS YOUR BENEFIT PLAN INCLUDED WITH THAT? BUT WHAT WE'RE GOING TO TAKE A LOOK AT IN THE HOUSE IS THAT BASE PAY LEVEL AND SEE IF THERE'S A FOCUS THAT WE NEED TO DO THAT. I KNOW THE GOVERNOR HAS GOT A PROPOSAL OF $30 MILLION THAT HE'S GOING TO BE PUTTING ON THE TABLE. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THINK WE NEED TO TAKE A LOOK AT IS STRATEGICALLY FOCUSING ON THOSE RESOURCES. I KNOW WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SHORTFALL SPECIFICALLY IN THE SCIENCE AND MATH AREAS OF EDUCATORS. DO WE NEED TO OFFER STIPENDS FOR THOSE EDUCATORS? AND THAT WILL BE SOMETHING WE'LL BE LOOKING AT AS REPUBLICANS. IT'S MORE THAN MONEY, THOUGH, I BELIEVE. WITH THE ALLOWABLE GROWTH FIGURES THE LAST TWO YEARS, WE'VE PUT $200 MILLION MORE INTO EDUCATION, K-12.

Henderson: AND WHEN YOU SAY ALLOWABLE GROWTH, THAT IS A GENERAL INCREASE IN STATE AID TO SCHOOLS.

Raecker: THAT'S CORRECT, A GENERAL INCREASE IN STATE AID TO SCHOOLS, $200 MILLION OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS. WE'VE GOT MUCH BROADER ISSUES IN THE EDUCATION ARENA THAN JUST THE TEACHER PAY ISSUE. IT'S RELATED TO ALL OF THOSE ISSUES OF HAVING 365 SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN THIS STATE, THE TYPES OF SERVICES THEY'RE OFFERING, THE EFFICIENCIES THAT WE HAVE --

Glover: SO AS APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR, YOUR FIRST GOAL WILL BE TO CUT THE NUMBER OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND FORCE MERGERS?

Raecker: NO, MY FIRST GOAL AS THE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR IS TO DEVELOP A PROCESS THAT'S GOING TO HAVE EVERYBODY AT THE TABLE, HAVE DEBATE AND DISCUSSION, AND MEET A BUDGET THAT MEETS OUR NEEDS OF EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE, AND PUBLIC SAFETY.

Glover: THE GOVERNOR HAS PUT SOMETHING ON THE TABLE. AND IT HAS TO DO WITH REVENUE THAT THE STATE COLLECTS THAT'S BEYOND WHAT'S PROJECTED, IN OTHER WORDS EXCESS REVENUE. ONE OF THE THINGS HE WANTS TO DO WITH THAT IS CREATE A PROGRAM TO PROVIDE GRANTS TO LOCAL SCHOOLS TO DO WHAT HE CALLS INNOVATION PROJECTS. HE CALLS IT HIS INNOVATION FUND. IS THAT A GOOD IDEA?

Raecker: IT'S AN IDEA THAT WE'LL CERTAINLY TAKE A LOOK AT. RIGHT NOW WHAT WE HAVE IN PLACE AND SOMETHING THAT I WILL BE SUPPORTING AS APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR TO EVEN ENHANCE, AS THE MONEY FLOWS THROUGH THE BUCKETS, THE RESOURCE FUND AND THE ECONOMIC EMERGENCY FUND, THE CASH RESERVE FUND AND THE ECONOMIC EMERGENCY FUND, WE MADE A COMMITMENT LAST YEAR THAT THOSE DOLLARS WOULD GO BACK, ANY ADDITIONAL DOLLARS, TO REPAY THE SENIOR LIVING TRUST FUND. RIGHT NOW BY IOWA LAW, THAT'S TO BE FILLED BACK UP TO ABOUT $118 MILLION. THAT'S NOT NEARLY WHAT WE BORROWED FROM THAT FUND, AND WE WILL BE HAVING A BILL -- A BIPARTISAN BILL THE FIRST WEEK OF THE SESSION INTRODUCED WITH THE MINORITY MEMBER -- RANKING MEMBER ON THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE TO BRING THAT FIGURE UP OVER $300 MILLION THAT THAT WILL BE REPAID. SO THAT'S THE FIRST PRIORITY OF THAT EXCESS REVENUE IS TO REPAY THE FUNDS THAT WE BORROWED IN VERY DIFFICULT ECONOMIC TIMES. AS IT RELATES TO THE INNOVATION FUND, I SAT ON THE GOVERNOR'S TASK FORCE LAST SESSION ON EDUCATION GOVERNANCE. THIS SPECIFIC AREA IS SOMETHING THAT OUR EDUCATORS ACROSS THE STATE CONTINUE TO WORK ON THROUGH THE AEA PROCESS OF DISCUSSION. THOSE EFFICIENCIES CAN BE THERE. I THINK THE QUESTION WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES IS IF IT IS THAT LARGE OF A PRIORITY THAT WE WANT TO HAVE THAT INNOVATION, SHOULD WE RELY ON THE POTENTIAL OF EXCESS FUNDS TO FUND THAT OR DO WE NEED TO DIRECTLY APPROPRIATE FUNDS FOR DISTRICTS TO BE ABLE TO DO THOSE INITIATIVES? I THINK IF IT'S GOING TO BE THAT HIGH OF A PRIORITY, WE NEED TO BUILD THOSE INCENTIVES INTO THE BUDGET. I THINK IT'S A PRIORITY FOR IOWANS. THE OTHER THING THAT I WOULD SAY ABOUT THAT THOUGH, MIKE, IS THAT A LOT OF THOSE DISTRICTS CAN FIND THOSE INCENTIVES AND THOSE DOLLARS AS INCENTIVES RIGHT THERE IN THEIR OWN LOCAL DISTRICTS. LAST YEAR DURING THE GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE MEETINGS, WE HEARD OF NEIGHBORING DISTRICTS WHERE IF THEY WERE TO COME TOGETHER WITH THEIR STATE AID FORMULA, THAT IF DISTRICTS CAME TOGETHER, THERE COULD BE AS MUCH AS, YOU KNOW, A MILLION OR A MILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS AVAILABLE IN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES BY BRINGING THOSE DISTRICTS TOGETHER. LOCAL DISTRICTS NEED TO BE LOOKING AT THAT.

Henderson: YOU WERE ON THAT PROPERTY TAX COMMITTEE, BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT HOW HIGH IOWA'S PROPERTY TAXES ARE, AND YOU WERE ON THE EDUCATION PART OF THAT PANEL. DO YOU SEE IN YOUR ROLE NOW AS APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR THAT THE STATE WILL SPEND MORE GENERAL STATE TAX MONEY, I.E., SALES TAXES AND INCOME TAXES, TO SUPPLANT THE PROPERTY TAXES THAT IOWANS ARE PAYING TO SUPPORT THEIR LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT?

Raecker: THAT'S CERTAINLY GOING TO BE UP FOR DISCUSSION. THERE'S BEEN A BILL THAT'S BEEN INTRODUCED WITH REPRESENTATIVE PAULSEN --

Henderson: BUT DOES THE STATE HAVE THE MONEY TO DO IT?

Raecker: WELL, LONG TERM WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LOOK AT THAT AND SEE IF WE HAVE THE FUNDS TO DO THAT. THERE IS ALSO A CONCERN IF THE STATE TAKES OVER A LARGER PERCENTAGE OF THAT, DO YOU LOSE THE LOCAL CONTROL. I WOULD BE SUPPORTIVE OF LOOKING AT THOSE TYPES OF ISSUES ONLY IF WE COULD DO IT IN A CAPACITY THAT DID NOT HAVE JUST WINNERS AND LOSERS.

Glover: SOMETHING ELSE THE GOVERNOR HAS PUT ON THE TABLE IN TERMS OF GOVERNANCE IS HE HAS PROPOSED -- THE WAY THE PROPERTY TAX SYSTEM WORKS IS THE STATE MANDATES CERTAIN KINDS OF PROPERTY TAX BREAKS, THE HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION, VETERANS EXEMPTION, AND SO FORTH, THAT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS HAVE TO GRANT, THEN THE STATE PAYS MONEY TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO REPLACE THOSE LOST DOLLARS. HE HAS SUGGESTED THAT, SAY, 75 CENTS OF THAT MONEY WOULD GO AUTOMATICALLY, BUT 25 CENTS WOULD BE HELD BACK ONLY TO GO TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WHICH SHARE SERVICES, AGREE TO MERGE, OR DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT, IN OTHER WORDS INCENTIVES TO MERGE. DO YOU LIKE THAT IDEA?

Raecker: I DON'T HAVE ANY DISAGREEMENT WITH INCENTIVES FOR LOCAL COOPERATION AND REGIONALIZATION OF SHARING OF SERVICES. WHAT I DO BELIEVE IS THAT IF WE'VE MADE COMMITMENTS, SAY, FOR PROPERTY TAX CREDITS, THAT WE -- IT'S INCUMBENT UPON US AS LEGISLATORS TO TRY AND FULFILL THAT TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY REGARDLESS. NOW, IF THERE ARE ADDITIONAL DOLLARS ON TOP OF THAT THAT COULD GO, THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING WE'D TAKE A LOOK AT.

Yepsen: MR. CHAIRMAN, YOU'VE MENTIONED HIGHER TEACHER PAY, ALLOWABLE GROWTH, PERFORMANCE-BASED PAY. YOU'VE MENTIONED HALF A DOZEN THINGS RIGHT NOW THAT WOULD CONCEIVABLY REQUIRE NET NEW MONEY. HOW DO YOU PENCIL ALL THAT OUT?

Raecker: WELL, THE WAY WE PENCIL THAT OUT IS BY FOCUSING ON THE PROCESS, DAVID. WE HAVE A VERY AGGRESSIVE AGENDA. I'VE MET WITH LEADERS OF BOTH PARTIES, AS WELL AS THE GOVERNOR, IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS. WE ARE GOING TO BE RECEIVING THE GOVERNOR'S BUDGET THE FIRST WEEK OF THE SESSION. WE WILL START OUR SUBCOMMITTEE MEETING PROCESS THE SECOND WEEK OF THE SESSION. WE HOPE TO HAVE JOINT TARGETS OUT BY FEBRUARY 3 AND ALL BUDGET BILLS OUT OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE BY MARCH 17, ST. PATRICK'S DAY. IF THE PROCESS ALLOWS, AS WE'D LIKE TO, TO HAVE BOTH THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE PASS THE BILLS AS THEY'VE DONE IN THE PAST, IF BECAUSE OF THE TIE IN THE SENATE WE'RE NOT ABLE TO GET THOSE BILLS THROUGH THE SENATE, THE HOUSE IS FULLY WELL PREPARED THAT WE'LL BE BRINGING THE BILLS OUT BY MARCH 17.

Yepsen: THE STATE AUDITOR, DAVE VAUDT, A REPUBLICAN, HAS BEEN CRITICAL OF BOTH THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR FOR THE LAST SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS FOR NOT PASSING A BUDGET IN WHICH YOUR REVENUES COME UP TO YOUR LEVEL OF EXPENDITURES. YOU'VE SIMPLY BEEN BORROWING MONEY FROM TRUST FUNDS, KICKING IT INTO OTHER FUNDS. OKAY, YOU'RE THE NEW CHAIRMAN. ARE YOU GOING TO BRING THINGS INTO BALANCE?

Raecker: MY HOPE IS AND MY GOAL IS TO PRODUCE A BUDGET THAT WILL NOT SPEND MORE THAN WE TAKE IN, WILL NOT RAISE TAXES, AND WILL HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE TO REPAY THE FUNDS THAT WE HAVE BORROWED FROM THE PAST. WE STARTED THAT PATH LAST YEAR. WE'D LIKE TO ENHANCE THAT PATH THIS YEAR. I BELIEVE IN READING THE AUDITOR'S REPORT, HIS LARGEST CONCERN IS THAT WE DON'T HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE TO DO THAT, IN HIS MIND. I THINK WE STARTED THAT PLAN. WE NEED TO ENHANCE THAT PLAN.

Yepsen: ONE THING THAT THE GOVERNOR HAS ALSO PROPOSED WITH THIS EXCESS REVENUE THING WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT -- HIS PROPOSAL IS IF YOU HAVE THE REVENUE ESTIMATES AND YOU GET A SURPLUS, THEN YOU SHOULD DO CERTAIN THINGS WITH THAT SURPLUS. ONE OF THE THINGS HE SUGGESTED THAT MIGHT BE DONE WITH THAT IS TO REBUILD A NEW STATE OFFICE BUILDING TO REPLACE THE WALLACE STATE OFFICE BUILDING. ARE YOU FOR OR AGAINST THAT?

Raecker: WELL, WHAT I WOULD TELL YOU IS IN MY OPPORTUNITY TO BE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR, WE WILL NOT FUND ANOTHER STUDY TO SEE IF THE WALLACE BUILDING NEEDS TO BE REBUILT. THAT WILL BE A PROPOSAL THAT WILL BE BROUGHT TO THE LEGISLATURE. WE'LL HAVE TO TAKE A LOOK AT THAT. IF IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO TEAR IT DOWN AND TO BUILD A NEW ONE THAN TO REFURBISH THE ONE WE HAVE, THE ONE THING THAT I WOULD WANT A COMMITMENT FROM THE ENGINEERING SIDE OF IT IS THAT WE COULD BUILD A STATE OFFICE BUILDING THAT LASTED MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS.

Glover: MR. RAECKER, TWO-PART QUESTION. SOMETHING THAT'S ON EVERYBODY'S MINDS -- ON THE TIP OF EVERYBODY'S TONGUE THESE DAYS IS THE STATE'S ONLY MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON IN FORT MADISON. THE ASSUMPTION SEEMS TO BE THERE'S A NEED FOR A NEW PRISON AT FORT MADISON. QUESTION ONE, IN YOUR MIND, IS THERE A NEED FOR A NEW PRISON AT FORT MADISON?

Raecker: I DON'T KNOW THAT ANSWER YET. WE'RE WAITING FOR, AGAIN, THE PROCESS TO WORK. AND THE COMMISSION IS GOING TO ISSUE A REPORT AS TO WHETHER WE NEED A PRISON OR NOT. IF WE DO NEED TO HAVE A PRISON, IF THAT'S WHAT THE REPORT INDICATES AND FOR THE PUBLIC SAFETY OF IOWANS WE NEED A NEW MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON, I WOULD FULLY ANTICIPATE THAT THE LEGISLATURE WILL TAKE THAT ISSUE UP AND WILL ACT ACCORDINGLY. PUBLIC SAFETY WILL BE FIRST AND FOREMOST IN OUR BUDGET PRIORITIES.

Glover: AND MOST PROJECTIONS SAY THAT WOULD COST ABOUT $40 MILLION TO BUILD. HOW DO YOU PAY FOR IT?

Raecker: WELL, THOSE WOULD BE ON DOLLARS OUT OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE FUND, OUTSIDE OF THE GENERAL FUND BUDGET THAT WE HAVE. I THINK WHAT THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT IS THAT THERE COULD BE EFFICIENCIES IN OPERATING A NEW PRISON THAT WOULD HELP PAY FOR THAT OVER TIME. THOSE WOULD HAVE TO COME FROM INFRASTRUCTURE DOLLARS, WHETHER IT'S THE WALLACE STATE OFFICE BUILDING OR THE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY IF THOSE NEED TO BE BUILT, BUT WE NEED TO TAKE A LOOK AT THAT.

Glover: BUT IF YOU'RE GOING TO PAY FOR IT BY SAVINGS -- BY OPERATING A MORE EFFICIENT PRISON, DOES THAT MEAN YOU'RE GOING TO ISSUE BONDS, BORROW MONEY TO PAY FOR IT, PAY FOR IT OVER TIME?

Raecker: MY INTENTION WOULD NOT BE THAT WE WOULD BOND. IT WOULD HAVE TO COME OUT OF THE BUDGETED DOLLARS OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE BUDGET. THOSE DOLLARS WOULD COME FROM GAMBLING PROCEEDS THAT ARE DEDICATED SPECIFICALLY FOR ONE-TIME EXPENSES. AND WITHIN THE LAST SIX, EIGHT WEEKS, WE'VE GOT TWO MAJOR INITIATIVES THAT WILL BE ON OUR AGENDA WE'LL HAVE TO TAKE A LOOK AT, THE POTENTIAL OF A NEW PRISON AS WELL AS THE WALLACE STATE OFFICE BUILDING.

Henderson: ONE OF YOUR ASSOCIATES AT CHARACTER COUNTS, THE GROUP THAT YOU LEAD, IS GOVERNOR RAY. HAS HE TALKED TO YOU ABOUT STATE SUPPORT FOR A RAIN FOREST PROJECT -- THIS INDOOR RAIN FOREST THAT THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT HOPES TO BUILD IN SOME CITY IN IOWA?

Raecker: I HAVE NOT HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH GOVERNOR RAY OR ANY OTHER MEMBERS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT ABOUT THAT PROJECT.

Henderson: IS IT A GOOD IDEA FOR THE STATE TO SPEND MONEY ON THAT PROJECT?

Raecker: IF THE STATE WERE TO ALLOCATE MONEY FOR THAT PROJECT, MY PROCESS OF THAT WOULD BE IT WOULD NEED TO COME THROUGH AN EXISTING STATE INITIATIVE, SUCH AS THE VISION IOWA PROGRAM. I DO NOT ANTICIPATE A DIRECT EARMARK. WE'VE TRIED TO GET AWAY FROM THAT IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS IN CREATING FUNDS THAT THOSE TYPES OF PROJECTS COULD ACCESS.

Henderson: WELL, LET'S TALK ABOUT VISION IOWA. A GROUP OF 17 CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE FOR THE LARGEST CITIES IN IOWA SUGGEST THAT SHOULD BE RESTARTED. ALL THE MONEY THAT WAS ALLOTTED FOR THOSE BIG COMMUNITY PROJECTS, LIKE THE IOWA EVENT CENTER IN DES MOINES, HAS BEEN ALLOCATED. WILL THE LEGISLATURE PUT MORE MONEY INTO THAT PROGRAM?

Raecker: I THINK THE FIRST THING WE'LL DO IS FULFILL OUR COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY ATTRACTION AND TOURISM FUND, WHICH WAS A PART OF VISION IOWA WHICH WE HAVE EXTENDED AND PUT MORE MONEY INTO THAT FUND. AS WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE, ANY MONEY THAT COULD POTENTIALLY GO INTO VISION IOWA IS GOING TO BE MONEY THAT WOULD BE OUT OF THAT SAME POOL THAT WE MAY HAVE TO LOOK AT A NEW PRISON OR THE WALLACE STATE OFFICE BUILDING. AND THAT'S ALSO A LIMITED POOL. SO IT WILL BE IN THAT MIX. WHERE THAT PRIORITIZATION FALLS WILL REALLY BE LEFT UP TO THAT SUBCOMMITTEE.

Glover: ONE OF THE BIGGEST FIGHTS AT THE STATEHOUSE IN RECENT YEARS HAS BEEN OVER THE GROW IOWA VALUES FUND, GOVERNOR VILSACK'S TOP PRIORITY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE WAY THAT FUND IS OPERATING, AND DO YOU WANT TO SEE ANY CHANGES IN IT, ANY MODIFICATIONS, EXPANSIONS, SCALE IT BACK? WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THAT?

Raecker: WELL, AS YOU KNOW, WE'VE GONE THROUGH SEVERAL YEARS OF SIGNIFICANT DEBATE AND DISCUSSION ON THE IOWA VALUES FUND.

Glover: SIGNIFICANT DEBATE IS A VERY KIND WAY TO SAY IT.

Raecker: WELL, NOW WE HAVE SOMETHING IN PLACE. AND I THINK THE THING THAT WE NEED TO DO -- WE MADE A SIGNIFICANT COMMITMENT LAST YEAR WITH THE FUNDING OVER MULTIPLE YEARS, A TEN-YEAR CYCLE, AND WE NEED TO SEE HOW THAT FUND WORKS AND OPERATES. I DON'T ANTICIPATE THAT WE'LL SEE A LOT OF DEBATE AND DISCUSSION ON CHANGING THAT AT THIS TIME.

Glover: AND YOU'RE AN URBAN LEGISLATOR. ONE OF THE BIGGEST COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE GROW IOWA VALUES FUND IS THAT IT HELPS BIG CITIES IN IOWA AND IGNORES RURAL SECTIONS OF THE STATE. HOW DO YOU ANSWER THAT?

Raecker: THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT THOSE DOLLARS DO HAVE AN IMPACT IN OUR MAJOR URBAN AREAS. THAT'S WHERE THE EMPLOYEE BASE IS RIGHT NOW IN THIS STATE. AT THE SAME TIME I THINK IF YOU LOOK AT THE TOTALITY OF HOW THOSE FUNDS HAVE BEEN ALLOCATED TO THIS POINT AND HOW THE BILL WAS STRUCTURED LAST YEAR WITH THE RURAL INCENTIVES AS WELL, I THINK YOU WILL SEE MORE AND MORE RURAL PROJECTS WITH THAT AND TRY AND GROW SOME OF THE OTHER AREAS OF OUR STATE.

Henderson: THERE'S A CONTROVERSIAL LAND DEAL WHICH WILL RESULT IN BUILDING A NEW DRIVER'S LICENSE STATION IN ANKENY, MOVING IT OUT OF THE DES MOINES METRO AREA. THERE'S BEEN A SERIES OF REPORTS IN "THE DES MOINES REGISTER" INVESTIGATING THAT. NOW FOLKS ARE CALLING FOR THE LEGISLATURE TO LOOK INTO THIS DEAL. WILL YOU AS APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIR LEAD SOME SORT OF INQUIRY INTO PERHAPS INSIDER TRADING?

Raecker: IT REALLY WOULD NOT FALL WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE. THE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, WHICH I PREVIOUSLY SAT ON, DID HAVE DIRECTOR WANDRO, AT THE TIME, IN LAST YEAR AND TALKED ABOUT THAT PROCESS. I DON'T KNOW WHETHER THE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIR LOOKS TO DO THAT. FROM THE APPROPRIATIONS STANDPOINT, THAT MONEY WAS ALLOCATED LAST YEAR TO BUILD THAT STATION. THERE WOULD NEED TO BE THE APPROPRIATIONS BILL TO STOP THAT PROCESS. THE GOVERNOR DOES NOT ANTICIPATE OFFERING ONE, AND I DON'T ANTICIPATE OFFERING ONE MYSELF EITHER.

Glover: AS YOU MAY HAVE FOUND OUT BY NOW, AS NEW CHAIR OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, A LOT OF PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW HOW SCOTT RAECKER THINKS AND WHAT FACTORS GO INTO HIS MAKING HIS DECISIONS AS CHAIR OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR PHILOSOPHY AS YOU APPROACH GOVERNMENT AND GOVERNMENT SPENDING.

Raecker: WELL, AS I LOOK AT IT, IT'S ALL ABOUT PROCESS. WE NEED GOOD INFORMATION IN THE PROCESS TO MAKE GOOD DECISIONS. WE'VE COME THROUGH SOME CHALLENGING TIMES, BUT WE HAVE CHALLENGING TIMES AHEAD OF US AS WELL. MY FOCUS IS THAT IN BALANCING THIS BUDGET FOR THE STATE, A $5-BILLION BUDGET IS NO DIFFERENT THAN BALANCING MY OWN FAMILY BUDGET WITH MY WIFE. WE CAN'T SPEND MORE THAN WE TAKE IN. IF WE BORROW MONEY, WE NEED TO HAVE A PLAN TO PAY THAT MONEY BACK AND WE NEED TO TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT. WE HAVE DIFFICULT DECISIONS TO MAKE. MY GOAL AS THE CHAIR OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE IS TRY AND MANAGE A PROCESS TO ALLOW THE SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS TO WORK TOGETHER WITH OUR COLLEAGUES IN THE SENATE AND WITH THE GOVERNOR TO COME TO THE END OF THE DAY AT A HUNDRED DAYS TO HAVE THIS BUDGET DONE.

Glover: AND ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE SIZE AND SCOPE OF STATE GOVERNMENT? WILL IT BE YOUR GOAL AS CHAIR OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE TO BE IN SHRINKING STATE GOVERNMENT, TO EXPAND THE ROLE OF STATE GOVERNMENT IN THE LIVES OF IOWANS, OR IS AT ABOUT THE RIGHT LEVEL?

Raecker: I THINK MOST IOWANS THINK THAT WE'VE GOT PLENTY OF GOVERNMENT AS IT IS. I WAS INVOLVED WITH THE REORGANIZATION THAT CREATED THE DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, WHICH I THOUGHT WAS AN EXCELLENT INITIATIVE TO TRY AND SCOPE GOVERNMENT MORE EFFICIENTLY. THOSE OPPORTUNITIES STILL NEED TO BE LOOKED AT. AND YOU CAN GET INTO KIND OF THE PAPER CLIP KIND OF ISSUES OF, YOU KNOW, FLEET SERVICE MANAGEMENT AND ALL THOSE ISSUES. BUT THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT AS WE LOOK AT STATE GOVERNMENT, WE'VE GOT TO PROVIDE FOR THE CORE NEEDS. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT EDUCATION, PUBLIC SAFETY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ARE TAKEN CARE OF FROM THE STATE LEVEL.

Glover: MR. RAECKER, ARE YOU AMONG THAT GROUP OF REPUBLICANS THAT THINK THAT WE OUGHT TO PUT -- WE OUGHT TO START STARVING GOVERNMENT TO SHRINK GOVERNMENT?

Raecker: NO, IT'S NOT A MATTER OF STARVING GOVERNMENT. IT'S A MATTER OF MEETING OUR NEEDS AND PRIORITIZING WHAT THOSE NEEDS ARE AND MAKING THE DIFFICULT DECISIONS. BUT I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF COMMON GROUND BETWEEN BOTH REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS, BETWEEN THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR. MY HOPE IS THAT WE CAN FOCUS ON THE COMMON GOALS, AND THEN WE'LL HAVE THAT DISCUSSION OR DEBATE ON THOSE CHOICE PRIORITY ISSUES THAT WE MAY DIFFER ON. AND MY HOPE IS THAT WE CAN DO THAT WITHIN THE 100 DAYS OF THE SESSION.

Yepsen: MR. RAECKER, IT STRIKES ME THAT YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES UP THERE ARE REALLY IN KIND OF THE WORST OF ALL WORLDS. YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIT MORE MONEY. IF YOU HAD NO MONEY, YOU COULD JUST SAY NO TO EVERYBODY. IF YOU HAVE A LOT OF MONEY, YOU CAN SAY YES TO EVERYBODY. BUT HERE, AS I SAID, YOU'VE GOT ABOUT $200 MILLION IN NET NEW REVENUE. YOU'VE GOT ABOUT $500 MILLION IN BUILDING EXPENSES. SO AREN'T YOU -- AREN'T YOU IN THE WORST OF ALL WORLDS WHERE YOU'VE JUST GOT A LITTLE BIT MORE MONEY TO SPEND?

Raecker: I THINK THE PERCEPTION IS THAT WE'VE GOT NEW MONEY TO SPEND, AND YOU REALLY NEED TO LOOK AT THE FACT OF THOSE BUILT-IN EXPENSES. AND THOSE HAVE BEEN PRIORITIES FOR THE LEGISLATURE AND FOR IOWANS. AS I SAID, THE ALLOWABLE GROWTH FACTOR OF $100 MILLION OF NEW MONEY GOING INTO OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM AS PART OF THIS NEXT BUDGET, THAT'S IMPORTANT. BUT WE DON'T HAVE THE DOLLARS THAT WE CAN JUST START DIVVYING OUT NEW PROGRAMS WITHOUT LOOKING AT WHAT PROGRAMS ARE EXISTING WE MAY NEED TO CUT BACK ON.

Yepsen: LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THESE PRIORITIES THAT ARE OUT THERE. HEALTH CARE, POLLS SHOW IOWANS WANT SOMETHING DONE ABOUT HEALTH CARE. WHAT CAN STATE GOVERNMENT DO? THE GOVERNOR IS GOING TO COME WITH A PROPOSAL TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES POOL THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE. IS THERE A ROLE FOR STATE GOVERNMENT IN HEALTH CARE? HOW MUCH MONEY IS AVAILABLE FOR HEALTH CARE -- TO LOWER HEALTH CARE COSTS?

Raecker: OUR HAND IS FORCED AT THE STATE LEVEL. WE HAVE TO PLAY A ROLE. THAT'S THE WAY THE MEDICAID PROCESS WORKS. THE ONE THING THAT WE HAVE DONE IN DIFFICULT TIMES IN IOWA AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO IN BETTER TIMES IN IOWA AS WE'VE DEALT WITH THE MEDICAID SHORTFALLS IS WE HAVE NOT CUT PROVIDER SERVICES, NOR HAVE WE LIMITED ELIGIBILITY. WE ANTICIPATE AGAIN ABOUT A $50-MILLION SHORTFALL THIS YEAR. BUILDING INTO NEXT YEAR, THAT'S ANOTHER $150 MILLION. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THINK WE CAN ALL DO IS REALIZE THAT STATE GOVERNMENT CAN'T ANSWER ALL OF OUR QUESTIONS. MANY EMPLOYERS ACROSS THE STATE, AND MY EMPLOYER AS AN EXAMPLE, HAVE WELLNESS PROGRAMS. IT'S ABOUT THE CHOICES WE MAKE IN SOME CASES AS TO WHAT OUR OVERALL HEALTH CARE IS, AND WE NEED TO KEEP IOWANS THINKING HEALTHY TO ACT HEALTHY.

Glover: LET'S GET YOU TO SEND ANOTHER SIGNAL. LIKE I SAY, A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY VERY INTERESTED IN WHAT SCOTT RAECKER THINKS ABOUT VARIOUS THINGS. ARE THERE ANY PRIORITIES THAT YOU WILL HAVE AS CHAIR OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE THAT ARE DIFFERENT THAN WHAT YOUR PREDECESSOR HAD? ARE THERE AREAS YOU'D RATHER FOCUS ON THAT HAVEN'T BEEN FOCUSED ON IN THE PAST? WHAT'S NEW?

Raecker: WELL, WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO IS CONTINUE THE PATH THAT WE HAVE BEEN ON IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, AGAIN, A BUDGET THAT MEETS THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS, A BUDGET THAT DOESN'T SPEND MORE THAN WE TAKE IN, A BUDGET THAT DOES NOT RAISE TAXES, AND A BUDGET THAT HAS A PLAN TO PAY BACK THE FUNDS THAT WE HAVE BORROWED. IN LIGHT OF MY PREVIOUS PREDECESSOR, MR. DIX, HE STARTED THE PLAN OF THE REPAYMENT TO THE SENIOR LIVING TRUST FUND. THAT WILL BE A PRIORITY OF MY CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE. I THINK THAT'S FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE AND I THINK IOWANS CAN UNDERSTAND THAT. AS WE COME INTO SOME BETTER TIMES, IF THOSE DOLLARS ARE FLOWING THROUGH THE ECONOMIC EMERGENCY FUND, THEY NEED TO GO BACK TO PAYING BACK THE MONEY WE BORROWED BEFORE WE START LAUNCHING NEW INITIATIVES.

Henderson: REPRESENTATIVE RAECKER, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? WHAT'S YOUR POLITICAL FUTURE? ARE YOU GOING TO BE A LEGISLATOR FOR LIFE, OR DO YOU HAVE ASPIRATIONS BEYOND THE STATEHOUSE?

Raecker: I'LL TELL YOU, I AM SO FORTUNATE AND BLESSED WITH THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT I HAVE TODAY. I REALLY ENJOY SERVING THE GOOD PEOPLE OF URBANDALE. I FIRMLY BELIEVE IN THE CITIZEN LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. I DO NOT --

Henderson: SO YOU LIKE IT.

Raecker: I DO NOT VIEW THIS AS A CAREER, THOUGH, POSITION. AND I DON'T HAVE FURTHER POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS. I DIDN'T RUN FOR THE SENATE SEAT IN MY DISTRICT WHEN IT CAME UP. I THOROUGHLY ENJOY BEING A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE AND SERVING THE CONSTITUENTS OF URBANDALE.

Henderson: THIS IS A POLITICAL YEAR COMING UP. HOW WILL YOU BALANCE REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS WHO IN PRIVATE SAY, HEY, DON'T DO THAT, IT WILL MAKE TOM VILSACK LOOK GOOD AS HE PREPARES TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT? HOW DO YOU ANSWER REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES WHO HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT STATE SPENDING PROGRAMS THAT WILL MAKE A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR LOOK GOOD IN THE EYES OF VOTERS?

Raecker: I THINK THERE'S PLENTY OF TIMES FOR POLITICS AFTER APRIL 18, WHICH IS THE SCHEDULED END OF THE SESSION. OUR FOCUS SHOULD BE ON MEETING THE NEEDS OF IOWANS, BUILDING A BUDGET THAT RESPONDS TO THOSE NEEDS, AND TRY AND KEEP THE POLITICS OUT OF THAT.

Glover: BUT, MR. RAECKER, LET'S BE REALISTIC FOR A SECOND. THIS IS AN ELECTION YEAR -- NEXT YEAR IS. THE SENATE IS TIED 25/25 AND FOUR REPUBLICANS HAVE ANNOUNCED THEY'RE NOT RUNNING FOR REELECTION. THE SMART MONEY IN THE ROTUNDA IS DEMOCRATS GET THE SENATE IN THE NEXT YEAR'S ELECTION. THE HOUSE IS 51/49 AND A LOT OF PRESSURE ON REPUBLICANS THERE. HOW DO YOU DO THAT IN AN ELECTION YEAR? I MEAN THERE ARE REALISTIC POLITICAL PRESSURES ON EVERYBODY.

Raecker: WELL, I'M NOT A BETTING MAN SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE AVERAGES ARE FOR THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE. BUT WHAT I DO BELIEVE IS THAT GOVERNOR RAY HAS SHARED WITH ME IN THE PAST AND I'VE FOUND IN MY SEVEN YEARS OF EXPERIENCE THAT GOOD PUBLIC POLICY CAN ALWAYS BE MADE TO BE GOOD POLITICS. GOOD POLITICS, WHETHER IT BE FROM THE REPUBLICAN OR THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE, DOES NOT ALWAYS LEAD TO GOOD PUBLIC POLICY. SO I THINK IF WE FOCUS ON GOOD PUBLIC POLICY, WE MEET THE NEEDS OF IOWANS. I THINK IOWANS HAVE SPOKEN, WITH THE SPLIT LEGISLATURE AND WITH THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE AND THE LEGISLATIVE BALANCE OF POWER, THAT THEY WANT TO US WORK TOGETHER. WE ARE GOING TO STICK VERY FIRMLY TO THE REPUBLICAN PRINCIPLES OF BUDGETING, BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO COME UP WITH A BUDGET THAT EVERYBODY IS IN AGREEMENT WITH AND THE GOVERNOR WILL HAVE TO BE HAPPY WITH.

Yepsen: MR. RAECKER, I'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT. THIS ALLOWABLE GROWTH, THIS LEGISLATURE HAS TO SET AN ALLOWABLE GROWTH FIGURE; DOES IT NOT?

Raecker: THAT'S CORRECT.

Yepsen: WHAT FIGURE WILL YOU SET?

Raecker: THE FIGURE NEEDS TO BE SET WITHIN THE FIRST THIRTY DAYS.

Yepsen: GIVE US A NUMBER.

Raecker: THE NUMBER THAT WE'VE DONE THE LAST TWO YEARS IS 4 PERCENT. I THINK 4 PERCENT WILL PROBABLY BE ON THE TABLE THIS YEAR. WE'LL WAIT TO SEE WHAT THE GOVERNOR'S RECOMMENDATION IS. WE'LL HAVE INTERNAL CAUCUS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THAT WITH OUR COLLEAGUES ON BOTH SIDES --

Yepsen: SO NO LOWER THAN 4?

Raecker: IT COULD BE LOWER THAN 4. I DON'T HAVE THAT ANSWER BECAUSE THE DISCUSSIONS HAVE JUST STARTED.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT HIGHER EDUCATION? I MEAN WE'VE GOT STUDENTS WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT HIGH TUITIONS, TUITIONS AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES BEING HIGH. WHAT WILL YOU DO FOR HIGHER EDUCATION?

Raecker: WELL, WE STARTED A PROCESS LAST YEAR WITH THE REGENTS WHERE THEY RECEIVE SOME ADDITIONAL FUNDS IN LIEU OF THEM CUTTING SOME FUNDS AND FINDING EFFICIENCIES WITHIN THAT PROCESS. I'M HOPEFUL AS I MEET WITH THE HEAD OF THE BOARD OF REGENTS, MR. GARTNER, TO SEE IF THEY ARE INTERESTED IN CONTINUING THAT PROCESS, WHICH I'M HOPEFUL THEY ARE. WE NEED TO ALSO KEEP IN MIND, THE PRIVATE COLLEGES IN OUR STATE AND THE INFLUENCE THAT WE CAN HAVE THERE WITH THE TUITION GRANT PROGRAM, AS WELL AS OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGES NEED TO TAKE A MAJOR FOCUS, AS WE SEE THE INCREASE IN NUMBERS THERE, TO MAKE THAT AN AFFORDABLE OPTION FOR IOWANS. AND, MIKE, THE ALLOWABLE GROWTH FIGURE -- A 4-PERCENT ALLOWABLE GROWTH FIGURE IS $100-MILLION COMMITMENT ROUGHLY.

Yepsen: MR. RAECKER, WE'RE OUT OF TIME. YOU'RE OUT OF MONEY; WE'RE OUT OF TIME.

Raecker: THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME TODAY, DAVID.

Yepsen: APPRECIATE YOU BEING HERE WITH US. NOW, WE RETURN NEXT WEEKEND AT OUR REGULAR AIRTIMES: FRIDAY AT 7:30 AND SUNDAY AT NOON. I'M DAVID YEPSEN OF "THE DES MOINES REGISTER" SITTING IN FOR DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

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