Iowa Public Television

 

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, Mike Blouin

posted on June 1, 2006

Borg: OUR SPECIAL ONE-HOUR EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS' CONTINUES NOW, AS WE COMPLETE OUR PROGRAMS WITH THE FOUR CANDIDATES WHO ARE ASKING IOWA DEMOCRATS FOR THE PARTY'S GUBERNATORIAL NOMINATION. WE'LL QUESTION MIKE BLOUIN 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, MAY 26 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: MIKE BLOUIN WANTS TO BE GOVERNOR OF IOWA. HE'S A NATIVE OF DUBUQUE AND REPRESENTED THAT REGION IN THE U.S. CONGRESS, ELECTED FROM WHAT WAS THEN THE SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. HE ALSO SERVED IN THE IOWA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. HE'S AN EDUCATOR, HAVING SERVED BOTH THE SECONDARY CLASSROOM AND AT KIRKWOOD COMMUNITY COLLEGE AS AN ADMINISTRATOR THERE. MR. BLOUIN'S CAREER ALSO INCLUDES NURTURING BUSINESS INTERESTS, HEADING CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE IN BOTH CEDAR RAPIDS AND DES MOINES. MOST RECENTLY HE DIRECTED IOWA'S DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. MR. BLOUIN, WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Blouin: GREAT TO BE BACK, DEAN. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Borg: AND OUR POLITICAL JOURNALISTS HAVE STAYED WITH US INTO THIS PROGRAM: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: MR. BLOUIN, WE LIKE TO START THESE PROGRAMS BY TAKING SOME CRITICISM TO A CANDIDATE AND GIVING THEM A CHANCE TO ANSWER IT. ONE OF YOUR OPPONENTS, CHET CULVER, SAYS YOU'RE MISLEADING VOTERS WHEN YOU SAY THAT YOU'VE CREATED 25,000 JOBS THROUGH THE IOWA VALUES FUND, THAT IN FACT THE NUMBER IS FAR SMALLER THAN THAT, AND YOU WERE A POOR ADMINISTRATOR OF THAT PROGRAM AT THE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. HOW DO YOU ANSWER THOSE CRITICISMS?

Blouin: WELL, IF THERE'S ONE REPRESENTATION MIKE BLOUIN HAS IS THAT HE'S NOT A POOR ADMINISTRATOR. I'VE DONE AWFULLY WELL IN MY YEARS IN ALL OF THE ROLES I'VE HAD IN TERMS OF EXECUTIVE ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES. AND I'VE HAD AN AWFULLY GOOD TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS IN THOSE YEARS THAT INVOLVE ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT. THOSE NUMBERS ARE PRETTY SOLID. AND I -- I'M ABSOLUTELY AMAZED THAT SECRETARY CULVER UNDERSTANDS SO LITTLE OF IT. THIS PROGRAM HAS WORKED BEYOND ANYBODY'S EXPECTATION. AND TO SAY THAT IT'S A FAILURE AND NOT CREATING THE JOBS THEY SAY IT'S CREATING IS NOT ONLY A SLAP TO ME, IT'S A SLAP AT TOM VILSACK AND THE 150 PEOPLE THAT WORK IN THAT DEPARTMENT.

Glover: SO WHAT DOESN'T HE UNDERSTAND?

Blouin: HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THAT IT'S SUCCEEDING INCREDIBLY WELL. THESE AREN'T REWARDS FOR HAVING DONE SOMETHING. THEY'RE INCENTIVES TO EFFECT BEHAVIOR. AND IF A COMPANY SAYS THEY WILL DO SOMETHING, IT'S GOING TO TAKE THEM ANYWHERE FROM THREE TO FIVE YEARS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. THEY'VE GOT TO BUILD THE FACILITY. THEY'VE GOT TO GET THE EQUIPMENT INTO THE BUILDING. THEY THEN HIRE THE PEOPLE, GET THEM TRAINED, AND GET THEM PUT INTO PLACE. AND IN MANY CASES THEY RAMP UP. THIS PROGRAM IS WORKING STATEWIDE BETTER THAN ANYONE'S EXPECTATION. AND TO ATTACK IT FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE JUST DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE.

Yepsen: WELL, IF YOU'RE ELECTED GOVERNOR, MR. BLOUIN, WHAT DO YOU DO TO THE FUND? DO YOU JUST KEEP ON KEEPING ON? YOU'VE HEARD THE CRITICISM OF THE VALUES FUND. YOU HELP BIG COMMUNITIES. YOU HELP BIG BUSINESSES. YOUR FIRST GRANT IS TO WELLS FARGO, AN IMPOVERISHED CORPORATION. AND PEOPLE IN RURAL IOWA SAY IT'S NOT DOING ANYTHING FOR FOLKS OUT THERE. WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THAT?

Blouin: FIFTY-TWO PERCENT OF THE MONEY HAS GONE TO COMMUNITIES WITH LESS THAN 10,000 POPULATION. OVER HALF OF IT HAS GONE TO SMALL TOWN AND RURAL IOWA. EIGHTY-THREE COUNTIES HAVE RECEIVED COMPANY GROWTH START-UPS, WHATEVER, UNDER THE VALUES FUND. ALMOST 400 COMPANIES, 7 PERCENT ARE OUT OF STATE. NEARLY 60 PERCENT HAVE FEWER THAN 100 EMPLOYEES. THESE ARE SMALL COMPANIES. THIRTY-SIX PERCENT, DAVID, ARE START-UP COMPANIES, BORN SOMEWHERE IN IOWA IN THE LAST THREE YEARS OR WILL BE BORN AS A RESULT OF THIS HELP. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE SOME FAILURES WHEN YOU HELP START-UPS. BUT TO TAKE A SLAP AT THE ENTIRE PROGRAM AND SAY IT IS ONLY HELPING URBAN CENTERS IS AN INDICATION OF A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING.

Yepsen: I WANT TO SWITCH GEARS. ANOTHER CRITICISM THAT'S MADE. YOU'VE STARTED -- YOU WERE THE FIRST ONE TO START NEGATIVE ADVERTISING IN THIS PRIMARY. YOU UNLOADED AN ATTACK AD ON CHET CULVER, CRITICIZING HIM FOR ONCE HAVING LOBBIED FOR IBP. IT'S A CHARGE HE DENIES. WHAT DOES ANY OF THAT HAVE TO DO WITH OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE?

Blouin: IT GOES TO INTEGRITY. IT GOES TO THE HEART OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU'RE ALL ABOUT. I WENT TO THE SCREEN MYSELF TALKING TO THE PEOPLE. I DIDN'T BRING IN SOME TRUMPETER OR A GREAT SCREENING -- VISIONS OF SOMEBODY FALLING OFF A CLIFF. I TALKED DIRECTLY TO CAMERA AND SAID, FOLKS, HERE'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US. I KNOW MY PAST AND IT'S PART OF WHO I AM. IT'S WHAT'S BROUGHT ME HERE, GOOD AND BAD, WARTS AND ALL. IT'S WHAT BROUGHT ME TO WHO I AM TODAY. CHET HAS SAID REPEATEDLY, 'I DIDN'T LOBBY.' WE PRODUCED LEGISLATORS -- LEADERSHIP IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE AND SENIOR MEMBERS WHO SAY HE DID. HE CALLS THEM LIARS. IT GOES TO INTEGRITY.

Yepsen: WELL, YOU -- AND CHET CULVER HAS RESPONDED WITH AN ATTACK AD OF HIS OWN. I MEAN THE TWO OF YOU ARE GOING AT IT NOW IN A CAMPAIGN. WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE REAL WINNER OF THAT MAY BE ED FALLON OR JIM NUSSLE?

Blouin: WELL, ED'S NOT EXACTLY INNOCENT IN ALL OF THIS. HE STANDS BEFORE AN AUDIENCE IN AMES OF 250 PEOPLE AND SAYS THAT EVERYBODY WHO VOTED FOR THE VALUES FUND, INCLUDING THE GOVERNOR, WAS BEING BOUGHT OFF. THAT'S A SWEEPING INDICTMENT. TO SOMEHOW TIE MONEY THAT WENT TO BOB VANDER PLAATS, A REPUBLICAN WHO IS OPPOSED TO THE VALUES FUND, MONEY THAT CAME FROM A COMPANY OR AN INDIVIDUAL OWNER OF A COMPANY THAT RECEIVED A VALUES FUND GRANT AND SAY THAT SOMEHOW THAT'S AN INDICATION OF HOW YOU CAN BE BOUGHT OFF IS CRAZY. BUT ALL OF THAT ASIDE, THE LACK OF INNOCENCE ON THE PART OF EVERYBODY, DEMOCRATS FORM A CIRCLE WHEN WE GET A FIRING SQUAD GOING. WE ALWAYS HAVE. WE ALWAYS MAKE UP WHEN IT'S OVER. WE ALWAYS MOVE ON AND WE GET WITHIN VERY SHORT ORDER, GET OURSELVES FOCUSED ON WHERE WE NEED TO BE.

Glover: ANOTHER CRITICISM OF YOUR CAMPAIGN IS YOUR POSITION ON ABORTION RIGHTS. YOU'RE PRO-LIFE IN A PARTY THAT'S LARGELY PRO-CHOICE. HOW DO YOU ANSWER THAT CRITICISM?

Blouin: I ANSWER IT THIS WAY: I CHOOSE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. AND IN ORDER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, I'VE ABSOLUTELY COMMITTED TO KEEP CURRENT LAW JUST THE WAY IT IS. I'LL VETO ANY ATTEMPT TO CHANGE CURRENT LAW. WHY? BECAUSE I WANT TO PUT MONEY AND PROGRAM EFFORT INTO PREVENTION OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES. I WANT TO PUT MONEY INTO EDUCATION, INTO ADOPTION, INTO PRENATAL AND POSTNATAL HEALTH CARE. I WANT TO FIND WAYS TO IRRADICATE CHILD ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN IOWA. THOSE STEPS, AMONG MANY, WILL REDUCE ABORTION BY INCREASING CHOICES FOR WOMEN, NOT DECREASING. AND I CAN DO THAT IN FULL CONSCIENCE AND CONSCIOUS THAT I AM DOING WHAT I BELIEVE IS RIGHT WITHOUT CHANGING WHO I AM.

Yepsen: MR. BLOUIN, A LOT OF WOMEN ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE COURSE OF THIS ISSUE IN AMERICA. THE COVER STORY ON ATLANTIC MAGAZINE THIS MONTH IS 'AMERICA AFTER ROW.' WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A WOMAN DEMOCRAT WHO IS WORRIED THAT YOU MIGHT BE FLAKING ON THE ISSUE OF ABORTION?

Blouin: I JUST SAID IT. I WILL ABSOLUTELY PROTECT CURRENT LAW. I'LL VETO ANY ATTEMPT TO CHANGE IT EITHER WAY. I HAVE A RUNNING MATE WHO'S A MEDICAL DOCTOR WHO ABSOLUTELY IS COMMITTED TO THIS ISSUE. SHE WOULDN'T BE THERE IF THAT WAS THE CASE. I HAVE 5- OR 600 WOMEN WHO HAVE JOINED A WOMEN FOR BLOUIN ORGANIZATION, THE LION'S SHARE OF WHOM ARE VERY STRONGLY PRO-CHOICE. THEY'RE THERE BECAUSE THEY TRUST ME. THEY BELIEVE I HAVE INTEGRITY AND WHEN I SAY SOMETHING, THEY CAN GO TO BANK ON IT.

Borg: AS I INTRODUCED YOU, I SAID YOU'RE A NATIVE OF DUBUQUE. IT STRIKES ME THAT THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE, JIM NUSSLE, MANCHESTER, ARE BOTH FROM THE SAME AREA OF THE STATE. THAT MAY BE WHERE THE SIMILARITY ENDS. WHAT MAKES YOU -- [ LAUGHTER ] WHAT MAKES YOU THE MOST LIKELY DEMOCRAT TO BE ABLE TO DEFEAT JIM NUSSLE?

Blouin: FIRST, I UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES. I BRING A WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE. THESE ARE SERIES TIMES. IOWA IS AT A SERIOUS POINT IN ITS HISTORY.

Borg: YOU'RE SAYING THAT JIM NUSSLE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES?

Blouin: JIM NUSSLE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES. JUNE 7 I INTEND TO SEND HIM A COPY OF THE IOWA CONSTITUTION WITH THE BALANCED BUDGET PIECE HIGHLIGHTED SO HE'LL UNDERSTAND THINGS ARE DIFFERENT HERE.

Borg: BUT YOU'RE ALSO SAYING THE OTHER DEMOCRATS DON'T UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES.

Blouin: I THINK I HAVE A BETTER GRASP OF THE ISSUES. I HAVE A BETTER TRACK RECORD, A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHERE IOWA IS AND WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO, AND A BETTER TRACK RECORD OF HAVING MOVED IOWA IN A WAY THAT CAN BACK UP MY DESIRES. I ALSO LOOK AT, GEOGRAPHICALLY, JUST THE POLITICS OF THIS. I COVER A LOT OF THE SAME BASES JIM NUSSLE DOES. IF HE THINKS HE'S GOING TO CARRY EASTERN IOWA IN A CAKE WALK, HE'S GOT ANOTHER THING COMING. THAT'S MY TURF. I KNOW HOW TO WIN THAT AREA. I KNOW HOW TO TALK TO PEOPLE THERE. I'VE DONE IT THE BETTER PART OF MY LIFE, WHICH MEANS HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER PLACE.

Glover: BUT IT'S BEEN SINCE THE 1970S SINCE YOU'VE WON IN THAT REGION.

Blouin: YEAH, AND IT'S GOING TO BE REPEATED JUNE 6.

Yepsen: MR. BLOUIN, LET'S STICK WITH THE POLITICS OF THIS BECAUSE, AFTER ALL, THIS IS A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN. A LOT OF DEMOCRATS ARE STRUGGLING. EITHER THEY LIKE CHET CULVER, THEY LIKE YOU. THEY'RE HAVING TROUBLE MAKING UP THEIR MINDS. BACK TO DEAN'S QUESTION... ELECTABILITY. THERE'S A POLL OUT THAT SHOWS CHET CULVER IS THE ONLY DEMOCRAT THAT BEATS MIKE BLOUIN -- OR THAT BEATS JIM NUSSLE, 49-41. MIKE BLOUIN DOESN'T BEAT JIM NUSSLE. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT?

Blouin: WELL, WE'VE SEE OTHER POLLS THAT SAY THIS WHOLE THING IS IN TOTAL FLUX. WE'RE WITHIN THREE POINTS. MARGIN OF ERROR IN THAT POLL IS FIVE POINTS, PLUS OR MINUS FIVE EITHER WAY. I MEAN, I COULD BE UP BY SEVEN, FOR ALL I KNOW, AND CHET COULD BE DOWN ONE. THAT'S THE MARGIN OF ERROR. THE POINT IS CHET HAS A SUBSTANTIAL ADVANTAGE IN NAME ID, AS DOES JIM NUSSLE. AND NEITHER OF THEM GET A RUNAWAY. I, WITH A LOT LESS NAME ID AND WITHIN 3 PERCENT OF JIM NUSSLE, THAT TELLS YOU SOMETHING. NUSSLE NEVER GETS OUT OF THE LOW 40S IN ANY OF THE SURVEYS I'VE SEEN. I THINK HE'S VERY VULNERABLE AND PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

Yepsen: AND TO A DEMOCRAT, THOUGH, TRYING TO MAKE A CHOICE, WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE POINT THAT CHET CULVER HAS RUN TWICE STATEWIDE? HE'S BEEN ON A STATEWIDE BALLOT A COUPLE OF TIMES. YOU HAVEN'T.

Blouin: THERE'S A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING SECRETARY OF STATE AND BEING THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE STATE OF IOWA, BEING SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATE AND RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR. I BRING AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF LEADERSHIP, A WILL AND A DESIRE AND A TRACK RECORD OF KNOWING HOW TO PULL PEOPLE TOGETHER, CREATE A VISION THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN THIS STATE, A REALISTIC SENSE OF HOPE ON HOW TO ACHIEVE IT, AND THE ABILITY TO GET IT DONE. THAT I THINK WILL SELL IN THE END MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE.

Glover: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE POLITICAL CLIMATE THIS YEAR. THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO SUGGEST THIS IS GOING TO BE A PRETTY GOOD DEMOCRATIC YEAR. PRESIDENT BUSH'S NUMBERS ARE DOWN. THERE'S SOME SCANDALS IN CONGRESS. OTHERS SAY IT'S GOING TO BE A POX ON ALL YOUR HOUSES YEAR, WHERE IT'S JUST GOING TO BE ANTI-INCUMBENT FEVER AMONGST THE ELECTORATE. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON WHAT THE CLIMATE IS THIS YEAR?

Blouin: I THINK IT'S A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH. I DON'T VIEW THIS AS A '64 LANDSLIDE OPTION. I DON'T THINK IT'S GOING TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR AS DEEP AS THAT. THE NATIONAL PUNDITS TELL ME TO EXPECT A 3- OR 4-PERCENT DIFFERENCE IN VOTING PATTERNS AROUND THE COUNTRY. IN A STATE LIKE IOWA, THAT COULD BE ENOUGH TO SWING BOTH HOUSES. BUT IN STATES IN THE DEEP SOUTH AND THE PLAINS AND SO ON, IT'S NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH TO CHANGE VOTING HABITS. SOMETHING DRAMATIC WOULD HAVE TO MAKE THAT SHIFT INTO A PARTISAN LANDSLIDE. I WAS ALIVE IN '64 AND I REMEMBER IT. AND IT WAS A VERY UNIQUE SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE LYNDON JOHNSON LANDSLIDE. I DON'T SEE THOSE SAME CIRCUMSTANCES HERE.

Glover: AND LET'S TALK ABOUT ANOTHER POLITICAL PROBLEM YOU FACE. MOST OF US THINK YOUR MAJOR OPPONENT IS CHET CULVER, BUT ALSO IN THE RACE IS ED FALLON, A SEVEN-TERM STATE REPRESENTATIVE WHO HAS SOME ALURE TO LIBERAL VOTERS IN PLACES LIKE IOWA CITY AND PLACES LIKE THAT. SHOULD YOU WIN THE NOMINATION, HOW DO YOU CONVINCE ED FALLON VOTERS TO COME TO YOUR CAMP?

Blouin: I HAVE ED FALLON VOTERS TELL ME REPEATEDLY, 'YOU'RE MY SECOND CHOICE, MIKE.' I THINK THAT'S PRETTY INTERESTING. I LIKE ED FALLON. I THINK HE SPEAKS FROM THE HEART ON MOST ISSUES. HE IS VERY DEEPLY-ROOTED IN PHILOSOPHY, AND IN THAT IS HIS WEAKNESS. HE HAS A HARD TIME COMPROMISING. AND YOU FOLKS, MORE THAN ANYBODY IN THIS CITY, UNDERSTAND YOU'VE GOT TO GET 26 VOTES AND 51 VOTES AND THE GOVERNOR ON THE SAME PAGE IF YOU'RE GOING TO GET ANYTHING DONE. AND ED'S HAD A HARD TIME DOING THAT IN HIS 14 YEARS IN THE LEGISLATURE AND HE'S HAD A HARD TIME EXPRESSING HIS DESIRE TO DO THAT AS GOVERNOR. I REALLY APPLAUD HIS PHILOSOPHY. I REALLY COMMEND HIM FOR HIS COMMITMENT TO WHAT HE BELIEVES. BUT YOU'VE GOT TO GIVE A LITTLE ONCE IN A WHILE IF YOU'RE GOING TO GET ANYWHERE.

Yepsen: LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE ISSUES IN THIS CAMPAIGN. WE HAVE TOO MANY AND TOO LITTLE TIME, BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT A FEW OF THEM. AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT. MR. BLOUIN, HOW WOULD YOU AS GOVERNOR BALANCE THE COMPETING NEEDS OF TWO VERY IMPORTANT INTERESTS TO OUR STATE?

Blouin: THEY'RE CRITICAL, BOTH OF THEM, TO THIS STATE. THIS IS AN AG STATE. FROM ITS VERY ORIGINS IT WAS AN AG STATE. IT STILL IS. IT'S A PART OF OUR FUTURE. WE'VE GOT TO STAY AWAY FROM PHRASES LIKE 'ZERO TOLERANCE,' WHICH WILL DRIVE AG AND MOST OF BUSINESS OUT OF THE STATE AND CLOSE UP MANY OF OUR TOWNS. YOU'VE GOT TO LOOK FOR THE COMPROMISE, LOOK FOR THE BALANCE. AND I THINK IT STARTS BY CLEANING UP OUR WATERS OVER A PERIOD OF TIME. IT'S NOT GOING TO BE CHEAP AND IT'S NOT GOING TO BE QUICK. FINDING POINT AND NONPOINT SOURCES OF POLLUTANTS AND DEALING WITH THEM BOTH AND CHANGING HABITS TO GET US BACK TO WHERE BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR IS PRINCIPAL AGAIN. ONE OF THE HESITANTS A LOT OF FARMERS HAVE IS TAKING CROP LAND OUT OF PRODUCTION AND PUTTING IN THE SETBACKS, PUTTING IN THE BUFFER STRIPS THAT ARE NECESSARY TO STOP RUNOFF AND SOIL EROSION. WHAT IF THOSE SETBACKS WERE PERENNIAL CROPS? WHAT IF THEY WERE SWITCH GRASS AND PRAIRIE GRASS THAT COULD THEN BE HARVESTED ON A REGULAR BASIS AND USED AS A SUPPLEMENT TO CORN IN THE ETHANOL PROCESS? IT'S A MUCH BETTER CROP RIGHT NOW, AND WE ARE INCHES AWAY FROM HAVING THE RESEARCH TO MAKE IT A VERY EFFICIENT CONVERSION. ALL OF A SUDDEN NOW YOU'VE GOT FARMERS MAKING A PROFIT OFF WHAT THEY WOULD WANT TO DO ANYWAY, AND IT'S A WHOLE LOT EASIER TO MAKE THAT CONVERSION. THAT KIND OF THINKING, THAT KIND OF TRANSITION WILL, IN THE LONG PULL, MAKE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE IN THE WAY WE APPROACH THINGS.

Glover: ANOTHER ISSUE FACING THE STATE IS A PERENNIAL ONE... EDUCATION. IN THIS PAST LEGISLATIVE SESSION, THE LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR SET ASIDE A POT OF MONEY TO INCREASE TEACHER PAY, POUR INTO K-12 EDUCATION. AT THE SAME TIME COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS IN THIS STATE PAY SOME OF THE HIGHEST TUITIONS IN THE COUNTRY. STUDENTS AT REGENTS INSTITUTIONS HAVE SEEN THEIR TUITION GO UP BY 50 PERCENT IN THE PAST FEW YEARS. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER THE HIGHER EDUCATION ESTABLISHMENT?

Blouin: WELL, I'VE MADE IT PRETTY CLEAR THAT THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE, AND THE REASON IT'S HAPPENED IN BOTH CASES IS THAT THE LEGISLATURE HASN'T PUT SUFFICIENT STATE DOLLARS INTO THE REGENTS OR INTO THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES. SO THEY ONLY HAVE ONE CHOICE. THEY GO TO TUITION IF THEY WANT TO KEEP THEIR OPERATIONS GOING ANYWHERE NEAR THE QUALITY WE EXPECT. YOU DON'T SOLVE THAT PROBLEM BY JUST PAYING FOR TUITIONS FOR ONE YEAR FOR CERTAIN STUDENTS. THAT'S THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT THE UNIVERSITIES ARE ALREADY GETTING. IT'S JUST COMING OUT OF A DIFFERENT POCKET. I THINK YOU FREEZE TUITIONS AND YOU INCREASE FUNDING WITHIN OUR ABILITY TO DO THIS SO THAT THEY CAN BEGIN TO REVERSE THE DYNAMICS OF WHAT HAS CAUSED THAT TUITION TO GO UP AS RAPIDLY AS IT HAS. THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES PROBLEM CAN BE FIXED WITH ABOUT $12 MILLION A YEAR, FULLY FUNDING THEIR FORMULA, PUTTING REAL MONEY INTO THEIR RETRAINING AND TRAINING NEEDS. IT CAN BE FIXED WITH ABOUT $35 MILLION ON THE REGENTS SIDE ON AN ANNUAL BASIS. AND IN BOTH CASES YOU CAN FREEZE TUITIONS AND ALLOW THE COST OF LIVING, IF YOU WILL, TO CATCH UP AND, IN THE PROCESS, DO SOME REAL THINGS TO RE-CREATE THE QUALITY OF OUR POST SECONDARY SYSTEM.

Glover: HOW LONG DO YOU FREEZE TUITION FOR?

Blouin: ABOUT FOUR YEARS. AND WHILE YOU'RE DOING IT, YOU KEEP YOUR STEPS OF INCREASED MONEY INTO IT. I THINK THAT WOULD DO, AS I SAID, MORE GOOD, THAN CONTINUING TO CHOKE THOSE INSTITUTIONS IN TERMS OF STATE MONEY AND JUST GIVING SCHOLARSHIPS TO A HANDFUL OF STUDENTS.

Yepsen: WHAT GOOD IS THAT GOING TO DO THE UNIVERSITY IF YOU SHUT OFF A SOURCE OF INCOME TO THEM AT A TIME WHEN THEY HAVE GOT TO WORK OVERTIME TO RAISE FACULTY SALARIES?

Blouin: I'M LED TO BELIEVE THAT IF WE COULD FUND THEM AT A $35-MILLION END-ON-END FOR A FOUR-YEAR PACE, THEY CAN REVERSE A LOT OF THE DAMAGE THAT'S BEEN DONE. THEY CAN PAY THEIR FACULTY. THE PROBLEM THEY'VE GOT WITH ATTRACTING FACULTY RIGHT NOW, DAVID, IS TWO-FOLD. ONE, THEY CAN'T PAY THEM WHAT THEY NEED BUT, SECONDLY, THEY CAN'T MAKE THE MULTIYEAR COMMITMENT NECESSARY TO ATTRACT THEM HERE. OTHER STATES ARE DOING THAT. IF WE CAN TELL THEM, WE'RE GOING TO STACK INCREASES END ON END FOR FOUR YEARS FOR YOU, THEY CAN GO OUT AND CHANGE THAT. WE'VE GOT THOUSAND-STUDENT SIZED LECTURE HALLS TODAY. I MEAN YOU MIGHT AS WELL STAY HOME AND TAKE IT ON THE INTERNET.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT YOU'VE WRESTLED WITH AS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR WAS HIGH COMMERCIAL PROPERTY TAXES, TAXES ON BUSINESSES -- PROPERTY TAXES ON BUSINESSES ARE SOME OF THE HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY. WHAT DOES GOVERNOR MIKE BLOUIN DO ABOUT IT?

Blouin: THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION, NOVEMBER 8, WE ASSEMBLE A GROUP OF EXPERTS FROM ALL SIDES OF THIS ISSUE AND NOT JUST TRY TO DEAL WITH IT ON PROPERTY TAX. YOU'LL NEVER SOLVE THE COMMERCIAL VALUATION ISSUE IN A VACUUM BY ONLY WORKING WITH THE RESIDENTAL AND AG LAND FORMULA. YOU'VE GOT TO GET OUTSIDE THAT PARADIGM. IT'S WORKING TOO WELL FOR THE OTHER TWO PIECES. YOU'VE GOT TO GET INCOME AND SALES TAX INTO THE -- INTO THE EQUATION AND TAKE A LOOK AT OUR WHOLE SYSTEM OF TAXATION. THE PROBLEM IS WE'VE ALWAYS WAITED UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF THE SESSION FOR THAT. AND BY THE TIME YOU EVEN GET CLOSE TO HAVING A PLAN, THE SESSION IS OVER AND YOU'RE INTO AN ELECTION-YEAR CYCLE AND NOBODY WANTS TO TOUCH IT. I WANT TO HAVE A PLAN PUT IN FRONT OF THE LEGISLATURE THE DAY I'M INAUGURATED.

Yepsen: IF YOU'RE BRINGING THOSE OTHER TAXES INTO PLAY, IS THE IMPLICATION THERE THAT THE ONLY WAY TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM IS BY A TAX INCREASE?

Blouin: NO, THERE COULD BE A SHIFT OF TAXES. THERE COULD BE A SHIFT OF BURDEN FROM PROPERTY TO INCOME, NOT AS MUCH AS BOB VANDER PLAATS HAS SUGGESTED, A BILLION DOLLAR SHIFT, BUT YOU CAN TWEAK WITH IT. YOU CAN LOOK AT THINGS LIKE FEDERAL DEDUCTABILITY. YOU CAN LOOK AT THE FAIRNESS AND EQUITY OF THE SALES TAX SYSTEM AND SEE WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE MASSAGED. AND IF YOU GET ENOUGH WIN-WIN AROUND A TABLE, YOU CAN FIND A SOLUTION FOR THIS. IF YOU JUST TRY TO DO IT WITH COMMERCIAL PROPERTY, WE'RE NEVER GOING TO GET OUT OF THE BOX.

Yepsen: DO YOU THINK YOU CAN DO THAT IN THE SPACE OF ABOUT SEVEN WEEKS, BETWEEN THE ELECTION AND THE START OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION?

Blouin: I THINK IF YOU GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE ON IT, THEY CAN COME UP WITH A COUPLE OF PROPOSALS THAT THE LEGISLATURE CAN SINK ITS TEETH INTO THE VERY FIRST DAY OF THE SESSION. WHAT WE'VE GOT NOW IS A TIME PROBLEM. IT DOESN'T HAPPEN IN THE FIRST SESSION OF A BIENNIUM BECAUSE THEY'RE JUST GETTING THEIR ARMS AROUND IT AND YOU GET INTO AN ELECTION YEAR AND NOBODY WANTS TO TOUCH IT. SO YOU EITHER GO THAT ROUTE AND HOPE YOU'VE GOT ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE IT WORK OR YOU'VE GOT TO ASSUME IT'S YEAR THREE. AND I'M NOT SURE WE CAN WAIT THAT LONG ON THIS COMMERCIAL PROPERTY ISSUE.

Glover: LET'S GO BACK TO POLITICS A LITTLE BIT. YOU'VE GOTTEN THE SUPPORT OF ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF THE ORGANIZED LABOR ESTABLISHMENT IN IOWA. HOW BIG A HELP -- WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR YOU IN A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY, AND HOW CAN ONE OF YOUR OPPONENTS OVERCOME THAT?

Blouin: WELL, MY HOPE IS THEY CAN'T. [ LAUGHTER ] HOW BIG OF A HELP? IT'S TREMENDOUS. WHEN YOU'VE GOT 14 OF 17 UNIONS WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO ENDORSE -- ENDORSING YOU, AND ALL HAVING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MEMBERS IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE STATE, IT'S A -- IT'S AN INCREDIBLE ADVANTAGE. WHEN YOU'VE GOT OVER 80 PERCENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS DOING THE SAME THING, IT SENDS A MESSAGE, AND THE MESSAGE IS THIS IS THE GUY WHO CAN LEAD. THOSE WHO KNOW THEM ALL THE BEST SAY MIKE BLOUIN IS THE GUY THEY TRUST, MIKE BLOUIN IS THE GUY THEY LEAD. THAT MESSAGE CAN'T BE REPLACED OR SUPERSEDED.

Glover: WELL, LET'S TURN THAT ENDORSEMENT ON ITS EAR. WE ARE IN AN ERA WHERE ORGANIZED LABOR IS AT AN HISTORIC LOW IN MEMBERSHIP, AN HISTORIC LOW IN CLOUT. THEY'RE FRACTURED. ISN'T THERE A DAMAGE TO THIS ENDORSEMENT?

Blouin: BOY, I DON'T SEE A DOWNSIDE. ABOUT 20 PERCENT OF PRIMARY VOTE AT LEAST WILL BE FROM ORGANIZED LABOR HOUSEHOLDS. IT MIGHT EVEN BY HIGHER THAN THAT. THE TURNOUT, PEOPLE ARE SAYING, IS NOT GOING TO BE ALL THAT MASSIVE. IF ORGANIZED LABOR -- IF FRIENDS AND CONSTITUENTS OF LEGISLATORS AND COUNTY OFFICIALS WHO HAVE ENDORSED OUR CAMPAIGN GET THEIR FRIENDS OUT, THE IMPACT OF THAT COULD VERY WELL TURN THE TIDE IN THIS WHOLE ELECTION. AND RIGHT NOW THE SAND IS MOVING, AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHEN YOU WANT THAT TIDE TO TURN.

Yepsen: DO ALL THESE LABOR ENDORSEMENTS MEAN THE GOVERNOR MIKE BLOUIN WOULD SIGN A REPEAL OF IOWA'S RIGHT TO WORK LAW?

Blouin: THAT'S NOT EVEN ON THE TABLE. THE ISSUE THAT LABOR IS TALKING ABOUT IS WHAT WE CALL FAIR SHARE. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE A MEMBER, THAT'S FINE. BUT IF YOU'RE GETTING THE BENEFITS OF A NEGOTIATED CONTRACT, SAME WAGES, SAME FRINGE BENEFITS, SAME NEGOTIATED RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS, THEN YOU OUGHT TO AT LEAST PAY A FAIR SHARE OF THAT DUES FOR SERVICES RENDERED. ALL THEY'RE ASKING FOR IS THE RIGHT TO NEGOTIATE THAT POWER ON A CONTRACT-BY-CONTRACT BASIS. IOWA LAW DOESN'T ALLOW THAT. THAT, TO ME, IS EMINENTLY FAIR.

Yepsen: AND ONE OF THOSE UNIONS THAT'S ENDORSED YOU IS THE AFSCME UNION, THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES UNION. DOES THAT ENDORSEMENT MEAN YOU'RE GOING TO BE TOO WILLING TO GIVE THEM PAY RAISES?

Blouin: WELL, I HOPE I'M FAIR. I HOPE I UNDERSTAND AFTER I'M GOVERNOR IS WHAT I UNDERSTAND NOW. THESE PEOPLE BREAK THEIR BACKS.

Yepsen: EXCUSE ME. HOW DO YOU STAND UP TO A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT'S JUST HELPED GET YOU ELECTED?

Blouin: YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAND UP TO THEM. YOU INCLUDE THEM IN THE PROCESS. YOU KNOW, I THINK TOO OFTEN WE DRAW WALLS, DAVID. WE SAY YOU'RE ON THAT SIDE AND WE'RE ON THIS SIDE, WE'RE MANAGEMENT, YOU'RE LABOR. AS SOON AS YOU SAY THAT BARRIERS GO UP, WALLS GO UP. INCLUDE THEM. WE WANT TO GET EFFICIENCY IN THE GOVERNMENT, TALK TO THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WHO WORK THERE EVERY DAY. WE WANT TO FIND WAYS TO GET A FAIR PLAN TO PAY PEOPLE, COMPENSATE THEM, TALK TO THE EMPLOYEES. LET THEM KNOW WHAT THE BUDGET NUMBERS ARE LIKE AND SIT DOWN WITH THEM IN A WAY THAT BRINGS THEM TO A FAIR APPROACH. I DON'T THINK THAT'S ANTI-LABOR OR PRO-LABOR, ANTI-BUSINESS OR PRO-BUSINESS. IT'S PRO IOWA.

Yepsen: AND YOU ARE LOOKING TO SUCCEED TOM VILSACK. HOW WOULD YOU BE DIFFERENT?

Blouin: WELL, TOM VILSACK IS A PRETTY GOOD FRIEND, A GOOD ENOUGH FRIEND TO HAVE TALKED ME INTO GOING TO WORK FOR HIM AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT. AND I'VE GOTTEN TO KNOW HIM PRETTY WELL. TOM VILSACK HAS AN AMAZING ABILITY TO LOOK AT A PLAYING FIELD -- AND IT'S A GIFT REALLY. HE SEES WHERE YOU'RE AT AND WHERE YOU'VE GOT TO BE AND HE KNOWS HOW TO GET THERE. THE FIRST MOVE KIND OF OPENS THE DOORS FOR HIM. AND BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN, FOR SO MANY YEARS AS A YOUNG PERSON, A LONER, IF YOU WILL, IT'S BEEN VERY -- VERY DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO LEARN HOW TO BE INCLUSIVE. HE'S HAD TO LEARN THAT OVER THE YEARS, AND HE'S GOTTEN PRETTY GOOD AT IT. I GOT GOOD AT BEING INCLUSIVE AND COLLABORATIVE OVER THE YEARS BY PUTTING MY HAND ON THE STOVE TOO OFTEN ALL ALONE. I KIND OF WANT TO HAVE OTHER HANDS UP THERE. AND TO ME, THAT'S PROBABLY -- IT'S A STYLE DIFFERENCE MORE THAN IT IS A SUBSTANTIVE DIFFERENCE.

Glover: YOU WERE HIS DIRECTOR OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. HIS PRESS SECRETARY IS NOW YOUR CAMPAIGN MANAGER. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SUGGEST THAT YOU ARE THE VILSACK CANDIDATE, THERE'S A TILT TOWARDS YOU. IS THERE A TILT TOWARDS YOU?

Blouin: I DON'T THINK SO. YOU KNOW, EVERY TIME WE DO SOMETHING THAT BRINGS UP THE VILSACK YEARS, THE GOVERNOR IMMEDIATELY CALLS THE OTHER CANDIDATES AND SAYS, 'LOOK, I'M NOT ENDORSING ANYBODY,' AND HE'S NOT. THERE'S NOT A TILT. THERE'S A FRIENDSHIP BUT FRIENDSHIPS DON'T NECESSARILY MEAN SUPPORT. I'M NOT ASKING HIM FOR HIS ENDORSEMENT. I'M NOT ASKING HIM FOR HIS INVOLVEMENT. I THINK HE HAS ENOUGH ON HIS OWN PLATE. AND QUITE HONESTLY, IOWANS DON'T FORCE FEED REAL WELL. THEY DON'T LIKE TO BE TOLD WHO TO VOTE FOR.

Borg: DO YOU THINK THERE'S A DANGER IN IOWA RUSHING TO BUILD SO MANY ETHANOL PLANTS? IS THERE A DANGER THAT THAT MARKET, IF SOMETHING ELSE IS DEVELOPED, COULD GO BUST AND IOWA SUFFERS?

Blouin: IF IT'S STRICTLY BASED ON ONLY CORN, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO HIT A CEILING A LOT FASTER THAN SOME FOLKS REALIZE. WE'VE GOT TO FIND WAYS TO GET BIOMASS. WE'VE GOT TO FIND WAYS TO GET THE CORN STOVE IN THERE. WE'VE GOT TO FIND WAYS TO GET PERENNIALS. AS WE ADD THOSE AND AS THIS MARKET GROWS UNDER FEDERAL MANDATE AND AS WE HAVE MORE DRIVERS CAPABLE OF ABSORBING E85 INTO THEIR VEHICLES, I EXPECT THIS TO GROW FOR MANY YEARS.

Borg: IN THE FINAL THIRTY SECONDS --

Blouin: YEAH.

Borg: WHAT DO YOU WANT DEMOCRATS TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOU AS THEY ENTER THE VOTING BOOTH?

Blouin: I CAN WIN. I CAN LEAD THIS STATE. I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. ANYONE WHO RUNS FOR OFFICE FOR ANY REASON OTHER THAN THAT IS MAKING A SERIOUS MISTAKE. I BELIEVE I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE FUTURE OF IOWA. I THINK I HAVE A VISION AND THE EXPERIENCE TO GO WITH IT. AND I'D LIKE TO USE MY ENERGIES NOT TO CLIMB A POLITICAL LADDER, BUT TO MAKE THIS STATE THE BEST PLACE THAT IT COULD POSSIBLY BE FOR THREE MILLION IOWANS.

Borg: THANKS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US TODAY.

Blouin: IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Borg: WELL, TODAY'S TWIN EDITIONS OF 'IOWA PRESS' COMPLETE THREE WEEKS OF EXTENDED COVERAGE LEADING TO THE STATE PARTY PRIMARY ELECTION. NEXT WEEKEND ON THE EVE OF THAT ELECTION, WE'LL GET INSIGHTS FROM SEVERAL POLITICAL REPORTERS WHO HAVE COVERED THE CAMPAIGNS AND THE CANDIDATES DURING THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS. YOU'LL SEE OUR REPORTERS ROUNDTABLE NEXT WEEK AT THE REGULAR 'IOWA PRESS' AIRTIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT AND 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. YOU'RE WELCOME TO EAVESDROP ON THE REPORTERS' INSIDE COMMENTS. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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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