- Transcript (RTF)
Iowa's fiscal house has been battered by job losses and plummeting tax revenues. With that backdrop, first-term Governor Chet Culver enters an election year with a trio of republican challengers vying for his job. Today, the three candidates seeking their party's nomination for governor debate the issues. From Cedar Rapids, this is The Republican Race for Iowa's Governor, the Iowa Broadcast News Association Debate.
Fisher: Welcome to Cedar Rapids, the site of the 2010 Iowa Broadcast News Association Convention. My name is Bob Fisher, the News Director at KGLO Radio in Mason City. I serve on the IBNA's Board of Directors. The IBNA is the group of radio and television news directors, reporters and producers who work together to improve electronic media news to our stations and the public. We're happy today to continue a tradition of our convention by hosting the candidates who are running for the republican nomination for governor.
Fisher: Let me take the opportunity to introduce those candidates to you now. Terry Branstad is a native of Leland in north central Iowa's Winnebago County. He served four terms as Iowa's governor from 1983 to 1999. After leaving office, Mr. Branstad later served as President of Des Moines University from 2003 until last October. But he decided to once again seek the highest office in state government.
Fisher: Bob Vander Plaats grew up in Sheldon in northwestern Iowa. He is a former high school teacher, basketball coach and principal. He currently serves as the President of MVP Leadership, Inc. which specializes in strategic vision and executive leadership for business and industry, economic development, education, health care, human services and private foundations.
Fisher: Rod Roberts was raised in Zearing in central Iowa. He has served the last ten years in the Iowa House of Representatives. Since 1991, Mr. Roberts have served as the Development Director for Christian Churches, Churches of Christ in Iowa where he has helped oversee the development of new congregations throughout the state and has assisted existing churches with strategic planning and leadership development.
Fisher: Candidates, we thank you for agreeing to join us here today at our convention. Now, I'd like to introduce our panel of media members who will be asking the candidates questions today. Paul Yeager is the host of Iowa Public Television’s "The Iowa Journal" program which looks weekly at the issues and how they impact the state.
Fisher: Jeneane Beck is the statehouse reporter for Iowa Public Radio. And Todd Dorman is a columnist for the Gazette Newspaper here in Cedar Rapids and his 24-hour Dorman blog appears on the Gazette's Web site.
Fisher: Our debate will work like this -- members of our organization have pinpointed six specific subjects dealing with state government. Each member of our media panel will ask the candidates a question pertaining to these subjects with each candidate being given 90 seconds to answer each question. At the end of our debate, each candidate will also be given another 90 seconds to make the closing remarks.
Fisher: Let's get our debate started today. Our first topic is the state budget. Paul Yeager, you have the first question.
Yeager: Mr. Roberts, if ten percent across-the-board, is that a responsible way of governing? We saw a ten percent across-the-board for every state agency last year. If elected how do you balance and then reduce the size of government?
Roberts: I believe that an across-the-board cut unless absolutely necessary is not a responsible method of dealing with a budget shortfall. It's important that the governor work in conjunction with the legislature in making critical decisions about appropriating money. It would have been far better a year ago if Governor Culver had called the legislature back into session and together work on finding areas of the budget where perhaps spending could have been reduced, spending could have been eliminated and then secure other areas where there would have been no impact in reducing spending.
Roberts: I think it's far more responsible to actually work in conjunction with the legislature and have a more surgical approach to finding specific areas where you can balance the needs of state government and the priorities that Iowans have. I think that working with the legislature, working in specific areas of the budget we can find areas of savings. As a state representative, house republicans in the last two years have actually developed a plan where we could save nearly $300 million in specific targeted tax cuts. As governor, I would work very closely with the legislature and use a more responsible approach to balancing the budget than simply using an across-the-board budget cut.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: Well, first of all I think we need to take a look -- we didn't need to be here. When Governor Culver became governor he grew government by one billion dollars, 2500 new full-time employees and as soon as we hit an economic glitch or an economic hiccup it's like we went into this economic crisis, like somebody pulled the string of a proverbial knit sweater and everything began to unravel.
Vander Plaats: A ten percent across-the-board cut is not leadership. As a matter of fact, it takes no intellectual fire power to do an across-the-board cut. I came out in June of '09 and I told Governor Culver, you have $161 million problem on your hands. That was the time for him to call a special session, determine priorities, fund those priorities but we shouldn't be cutting public safety across-the-board by ten percent or the Department of Corrections across-the-board by ten percent. That was the time to fund priorities but make other streamlined decisions.
Vander Plaats: I think there's a lot of ways in state government we can provide better services but under economic integrity. I think we need to be funding the classrooms and not the bureaucracy. It's great way to streamline in education. In health care and human services, again, let's reduce the bureaucracy but let's fund the front lines. There's a lot of streamlined approaches that can be done but it's going to take leadership and to be quite honest it's one of the reasons I 'm running for governor.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: Governor Culver's actions are both reckless and irresponsible. First of all, as has been said previously, he recklessly increased spending, even in 2009 when the nation was already in a recession they passed the biggest state budget in history and then they got this federal stimulus money, hundreds of millions of dollars and spent a lot of that on ongoing expenses instead of one-time expenses. And then on top of that he insisted on putting the state deeply in debt by passing this big bonding plan that is mortgaging the future and it's going to cost the taxpayers interest over the next 20 years.
Branstad: And then after the republicans and the state auditor had warned about the reckless spending he ignored it for eight months in 1999, in 2009, and finally in October one day he woke up and realized we're in deep trouble. And instead of calling the legislature back as would have been the responsible thing he did this reckless across-the-board cut which really put the burden back on local governments, local school districts that had to raise property taxes and lay off teachers. It's not a responsible way to do things. We need to restore fiscal responsibility and have a prudent and thoughtful leader.
Branstad: I would have brought the legislature back, I would have set priorities and reduced some of the programs that are less important in order to protect education and higher priority programs.
Fisher: Next question, Jeneane Beck.
Beck: During the campaign four years ago, Chet Culver pledged to reduce property taxes for Iowa businesses. But his administration, like others before, failed to adopt any meaningful property tax reform. Is there a way to reduce the burden on commercial property tax payers without raising rates for residential homeowners? Mr. Vander Plaats?
Vander Plaats: Jeneane, there really is and it's a great question, it's a great observation. What's happened not only in the Culver administration but in previous administration is we've taken state obligations and we've put them onto the back of property tax payers. In this case, Governor Culver, there's no way that he can fund the state budget that he passed. So, property tax payers are going to have to absorb a lot of that cost. Talk to your city councils, talk to your county board of supervisors, talk to your local school districts and ask them, are they going to have to raise property taxes because of Culver's leadership and they'll tell you, yes.
Vander Plaats: There is a way to reduce property taxes, as a matter of fact, I've been a leader on that front. I said I would take mental health and developmental disabilities off the back of property taxes for two reasons. Number one is we can serve people with disabilities better. Two is it would realize $144 million savings and we can target that property tax relief to commercial business and industry.
Vander Plaats: Why you want to target that business and industry property tax relief? Because that's when people develop, that's when they expand buildings, that's when they grow jobs. That's what you want to do and I believe the only way you'll reduce property taxes is taking something off the back of it. But I think the key here, this isn't about serving people with disabilities less, it's about serving people with disabilities better. That is a passion of mine, it's a field of expertise of mine and I look forward to doing that as your next governor.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: There is no question that property taxes have become an impediment to business growth and development here in Iowa. We have four classifications of property tax in the state of Iowa, agriculture, residential, commercial and industrial. We currently cap the ability to raise property taxes on agriculture and residential by four percent. I would submit that we also need to control the increases that often get shifted over to the commercial and industrial classifications, we also tie that to four percent.
Roberts: That would at least slow the rate of increase but ultimately we have to have a hard look at just what we expect our property taxes to pay for with regard to local governments. A lot of our funding for local schools is placed in the back of property tax payers, counties and cities for the most part have a smaller portion of our local property tax bill. I think that the state should look seriously at providing more direct funding to our local schools, provide property tax relief in that way and I also agree that mental health services that the counties pay for should be another targeted area where the state of Iowa should look at providing state resources rather than relying on property taxes to provide these services for people with disabilities.
Roberts: I think long-term we should have a conversation with Iowans, find ways to prepare for the future and find new structures and ways of delivering services to people with their local government services and I think there are a lot of great ideas across Iowa. I would like to initiate that conversation and find those best practices.
Fisher: And Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: Jeneane, your question was how do we reduce commercial property taxes without impacting the other classes of property. You know, Governor Culver four years ago ran on a platform of reducing commercial property taxes. He appointed a commission, the commission met, made recommendations, it was ignored and nothing has been done. I have a plan that would work to reduce commercial property taxes similar to what we did when I was governor, when we got rid of the property tax on machinery and equipment and that made a big difference. We wouldn't have Epsco Steel, Cedar River Paper, PMX, Barilla Pasta, many other capital intensive industries in Iowa if we hadn't done that.
Branstad: On commercial property -- what we did when we got rid of the tax on machinery and equipment, we eliminated it for the new and then we phased it out over ten years for the existing. For commercial property what I have said instead of taxing it 100%, as Representative Roberts has already said, agriculture and residential are already limited, I took care of the industrial with eliminating it on equipment. What we need to do is tax it only at 60% or 65% of market value for the new commercial and then phase it down for the existing and then the state needs to provide assistance to local governments for the lost revenue over that four or five year period as we reduce it.
Branstad: But as we reduce that burden to 60% or 65% it's going to be much more advantageous for new business and industry to locate in Iowa and create jobs in our state.
Fisher: Thank you. Todd Dorman, you have our next question.
Dorman: Can you name one service government provides today that you think it should stop providing in the interest of saving the budget? Mr. Roberts?
Roberts: There are at least two that I can think of but one that I would recommend immediately is that we have, I think, an issue here in Iowa where there are adults present in our state who reside in the state of Iowa illegally. They are not to be here and I have recommended that we look seriously at denying benefits to resident alien adults in the state and that we save perhaps as much as $92 million in state funding to those who have applied for benefits but are not entitled to them.
Roberts: I actually co-sponsored legislation this past year that would require the Department of Human Services to develop rules that would ensure that when a person applies for benefits through the Department of Human Services they present a verifiable social security numbers. We've got to get a handle on just exactly who is applying for and receiving benefits at the expense of Iowa's taxpayers. And I think that we can save a considerable amount of money if we would make certain that only those who are legally here and entitled to these benefits receive them.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: I agree with Representative Roberts on that issue. I would also say we should not provide funding for organizations that provide abortion services. I think there's many other areas where we can also identify programs that have outlived their usefulness and we need to set priorities. We need to go through every single item in the budget and we need to eliminate those things that maybe we'd like but we can't afford to do, we need to protect those things that are higher priority or are important and we need to make the tough decisions.
Branstad: I think we can also reduce a lot of administrative costs in all areas of the government including the delivery of services by Area Education Agencies. There is a tremendous amount of administrative overhead there that I think can be reduced or eliminated and still provide quality services for children with disabilities and people that need special ed.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: Well, this is kind of fun because I agree with both of my peers, here. First of all, on illegal immigration, if we can save $100 million from people who are here illegally then we should do that. We shouldn't be granting services at the expense of the taxpayers and that's why I came out very strong this week when Arizona brought up the new illegal immigration stance that they took and said that not only do I support that but I would promote that as Iowa's next governor.
Vander Plaats: We've had a federal government that has become totally inept on that issue. The other one I agree with is Planned Parenthood or funding of abortions. I don't think that's a place for public funding whatsoever. We should be a culture that celebrates life and I believe that's who we are, we shouldn't be funding for abortions.
Vander Plaats: The AEAs as well, that's a $400 million bureaucracy on top of school districts. I think we need to redefine the Area Education Agencies, I think it would be a huge cost savings while putting more and more resources in the classroom. But I also think we have to take a look at universal preschool. K-12 educators, community colleges, private colleges, regent universities, they have all talked to me -- as we expand universal preschool that's $110 million fully implemented. Philosophically I believe that is where the parent should be in charge, the churches should be in charge, non-profits should be in charge. But I don't think that's where government should be. So, philosophically and economically I don't agree with that approach as well.
Fisher: Thank you. Our next topic to have questions about, ironically, is about education after Mr. Vander Plaats' last answer. And with that we start with Jeneane Beck.
Beck: 30 years ago Iowa's public universities received nearly three-fourths of their funding from the state with student tuition accounting for less than a quarter of their revenue. Now student and state contribution is nearly even. Is this the appropriate mix or is this driving up student debt and pricing some middle class Iowans out of education? Mr. Branstad, we'll start with you.
Branstad: I went to a regent university, I come from a family that didn’t' have a lot of resources. I worked in the cafeteria during the school year and I had a partial scholarship and I also had loans. I'm proud to say that I never missed a payment, I paid all my loans back but I didn't get my last loan paid back until after I was governor. So, I'm sensitive to the concerns of students and the financial impact that the dramatic increases in tuition -- we'll look back to the time I was governor.
Branstad: Even though we went through the farm crisis and tough times we never increased tuition by double digits like they have during my successors. Now I look at the erratic action that we've seen, the reckless and irresponsible action of Governor Culver first to provide a whole bunch of money and then through a ten percent across-the-board take it away. That has caused all kinds of disruption. Iowa State has had to dramatically reduce the extension program. It has caused problems at all of our universities.
Branstad: I'm one that is sensitive to higher education and not just the state universities, the community colleges. That is where there has been big growth. I have been president of a private college. I know how important the tuition grant is to help Iowa students with financial needs go to our private colleges and universities and thank God we've got 30 great quality private institutions in the state and I want to see the tuition grant supported as well.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: Well, I agree. Higher education is one of the things we should be extremely proud of in the state of Iowa. The regent universities, our private colleges, both of my boys attend Northwestern in Orange City, so private colleges are very important to me. But the community colleges as well, I think they fulfill a huge void. And what happens is because of poor leadership and poor management the ripple effect has been typically on the back of students with higher and higher tuition costs.
Vander Plaats: I was presenting to the Iowa State college republicans the other night and they were talking about tuition. I said, that's why you need a CEO from the private sector who knows how to produce more but with less, who can actually manage a state budget. And I'd like to get to the point that when we ask a student to contract with a regent university and say, I want to make a commitment to this regent university or to these community college or private college that we'd be able to say, this is what your tuition is going to be as a freshman, a sophomore, a junior and a senior. You can trust our management, you can trust our leadership and I think that's the direction we need to have.
Vander Plaats: But when you have poor leadership, as we have talked about with Governor Culver time and time again, the ripple effect is going to fall on a lot of people that has been unintended, in particular in this case on the backs of students and on the backs of parents. I think we need to do everything in our power to maintain and keep the private education, the regent universities, the community colleges that we have and make that commitment to students.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: Great question. I also share the concern that is voiced in that question. The design of the regent’s universities originally was for the public to contribute the majority of the funding for our regent’s universities so that all people had access to higher education. And we're now closely approaching a mix of government resources and direct tuition resources that are almost 50/50. As governor, my goal would be to make certain that there is no more than 50% of funding for our regent’s universities that comes from tuition. To be truly public, the public needs to contribute the majority of the resources.
Roberts: Now, there are three categories of students who receive, who pay tuition and just recently it was announced that next year there would be a six percent increase in tuition. We have in-state, out-of-state and international students. I believe that we should take a very close look at the rate of increases applied to these three classifications of students. I don't understand why in-state Iowa students should have to pay a higher rate than what we would ask of our out-of-state students and certainly our international students.
Roberts: So, I think that Iowans expect if they are contributing to and funding regent’s university education that Iowa's young people have the opportunity to attend and know that their tuition will not constitute more than half of the total resources that our universities use.
Fisher: Our next question comes from Todd Dorman.
Dorman: This is a subject that Mr. Vander Plaats has already broached -- but in recent years the state has spent millions on preschool programs in the public schools. Do you think that should continue? I mean, do you think the state has an interest in making sure that kids get quality preschool and are ready to learn by the time they get to the public schools?
Vander Plaats: I believe it's in all of our interests that kids are ready to learn by the time they get to schools. I think we need to determine whose responsibility is that. I think from any researcher's angle -- I've been in education, I've got a masters in specialist and educational leadership -- the formative years, three to five, is best with a mom and a dad. One of the best things I could do is grow this economy so moms and dads have the ability to either provide for preschool or for one of them to stay home and provide that early education at that time.
Vander Plaats: But as we continue to grow government and government programs and say we want to take over the child of age three and have a mandatory program at that point that's going to cost us $110 million, one is I don't think we can afford it. We're taking a look at how do we fulfill our responsibility to K-12 education, to community colleges, to private colleges, to regent universities and all other forms of government, we continue to grow government like it's the answer for everything.
Vander Plaats: I think one of the best things we can do for preschool education is grow this economy so families can provide for themselves, so moms and dads can have that interest at the early years and we need to encourage that formative development with moms and dads reading to their children, taking an active role, have the churches, have the non-profits. But $110 million I think is just going to be unsustainable as we take a look at the whole budget mix. That may not be popular but at least it's honest.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: I actually was present the year when Governor Culver initiated the proposal of a universal four-year-old grade level to our public K-12 system. I talked with teachers and administrators at that time and they expressed concern that adding an entirely new grade level to our public K-12 system would eventually jeopardize the well-being of our funding to K-12 education. They said at some point the economy will have a slowdown and then we will be challenged to provide adequate funding for K-12.
Roberts: This next year there is $45 million budgeted for this four-year-old preschool program. Eventually it will ramp up and cost at least $100 million. It is a classic example of state government going beyond our means, creating a new program that we could not sustain into the future and the professionals who were on the front lines several years ago gave good advice and said, don't do it. Now we find ourselves in a budget problem, the likes we've never seen, and we would have been far better off focusing these priorities on K-12. Now they see themselves as being shortchanged across-the-board. We would have been better off allowing our private providers to continue providing that quality education for our four-year-olds and I think that long-term we probably need to look seriously at not providing that level and that we would look to empowerment to provide those services.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: I agree with Representative Roberts. Again, this was a reckless and irresponsible thing that Governor Culver did. I do support preschool. I support Head Start. I support private preschool programs. I support financial aid for families with need. But I don't think the public schools ought to have to take over the education of all three and four-year-olds. I agree that that primarily should be the focus of the families and we should provide financial assistance to those in need.
Branstad: But I think it's a terrible mistake for the state to take on new obligations that we can't afford and we can see the example of what has happened. We've seen massive across-the-boards, big layoffs in public school education because we're trying to do more than we can realistically do. What we do we need to do well. We need to focus on the basics. We need to provide a good, quality K-12 education and increase the quality and the opportunity for our students instead of trying to do things that we can't afford to do.
Fisher: Our next question about education comes from Paul Yeager.
Yeager: We know that education is 67% of the total budget so it's a big deal. What is the one tangible thing, besides the preschool that you three have talked about, to get the most for our money in K-12, community colleges and the regent’s universities? Mr. Roberts?
Roberts: Well, there's no question when you talk to Iowans they have a very clear sense of what the priority services they expect from state government whether it's public safety, law enforcement, corrections, access to justice, focusing on commerce and then ultimately education and Iowans highly value a good, quality education. K-12 is of priority concern to Iowans, they want to see resources adequately funding our K-12 schools because as our local schools go so go our local communities, Main Street, families who live all across this state in cities and towns of every size.
Roberts: And they want to make certain that when our young people graduate from high school they have the opportunity to attend either a great community college close to their immediate area so they can develop the trades and professional skills to enter the job market or they want to know that we have prioritized funding for the Iowa tuition grant so they can attend one of our outstanding private universities and then also to prioritize funding for our regent’s universities. Again, I think the state should focus the resources we have on public safety, access to justice, certainly economic development but ultimately education in Iowa, it matters to Iowans and that should be a focus and it will be of mine as governor.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: Education should focus on the things that are most important to the children and that is the classroom and the teachers in the classroom. My daughter, Alison Costa, who is a third grade teacher in Waukee is with me here today and I hear from her all the time about how important it is, first of all, that the parents are involved in engaging their children's education and that we provide quality opportunities in the classroom. We need to reduce some of the mandates and some of the other things we have pushed onto school districts asking them to do things that are not what the responsibilities of the classroom should be.
Branstad: And we need to reduce some of the administrative and overhead costs so that more of our resources go to the classroom. And we should reward good teachers and we ought to reward good schools that are doing a good job. But we need to have uniform assessments and we need to make adjustments and changes so we can increase the results and the test scores of our students in this state. They have dropped dramatically since I was governor in the 90s. We used to be number one, number two in the nation and now in the scores last year we ranked 28th in 8th grade math, we ranked 26th in 4th grade reading. That is not acceptable.
Branstad: We need to restore our focus on quality and put the emphasis on providing the resources to the teachers in the classroom.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: I believe the question was about how do we get more bang for the dollar out of education since it's such a big part of our budget. I've said all over the campaign trail is that we need to get our arms around K-12 education, education in general otherwise you're just messing around with the budget. We need to simplify education. I used to be a teacher and I used to be a high school principal and let me tell you, in the 1990s we started growing bureaucracy at the expense of the classroom.
Vander Plaats: It started with human growth and development which sounds good at least to comprehensive sex education into kindergarten. We've decided that the schools have to be raising our children and we grew a bureaucracy and a bureaucracy and a bureaucracy at the expense of the classroom. I think we need to simplify the system and that way we'll put more dollars back in the classroom. How do you do that? 21st century student performance standards and expectations.
Vander Plaats: Kids have always risen, the always will rise to the expectation. You simplify the funding back to local school districts so local school districts can actually lead again instead of being mandated by Des Moines, or worse yet, Washington, D.C. Then how about if we do something novel. Let's let the teachers teach. Let's let the teachers teach and I really believe when you let local school districts lead, you let teachers teach, you will create an element of research and design, innovation and creativity where the cream rises to the top and we have best practices. Then you hold the local school districts accountable to the highest of expectations and be transparent with the results.
Vander Plaats: We can put more resources in the classroom but we need to reduce that bureaucracy that was started in the 90s.
Fisher: Time now for our next topic of discussion and we will go to economic development and redevelopment. Todd Dorman, you have the next question.
Dorman: It's a subject we're interested in here in this city. I'm wondering will you pledge to provide substantial state investment in a comprehensive system of levees and flood walls to protect Cedar Rapids from another catastrophic flood and also for watershed management steps that could protect pretty much the state of Iowa from the risk of flooding?
Fisher: Mr. Branstad, you start.
Branstad: Well, first of all, I know that Cedar Rapids was devastated by the floods in 2008 and I don't think that should be just the state's responsibility. I think the Army Corp of Engineers has a big role to play in making these decisions. I think the state should cooperate and work with local governments in terms of dealing with it. And I understand that has been a very difficult thing and I also I guess have some real misgivings about arbitrarily saying now we're going to go to a 500-year flood situation as opposed to 100-year flood situation which drives up the cost dramatically and makes it almost unaffordable.
Branstad: So, I think we have to look at it and we need to look at it and what is fair and what is a cost effective way. I certainly want to see things that have been damaged by the flood like the Czech and Slovak Museum rebuilt. My wife and I contributed to that, my wife is partially of Czech decent and she even served on that board for a while. We want to see those things restored and improved.
Branstad: But I also think we've got to be cost effective and realistic in terms of what kind of resources are going to put in and there can't be a blank check given on these situations. So, we have to look at it in a very thoughtful and realistic way and we need to work with the people who are affected, the businesses and the homeowners as well as with the community.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: The flood was the worst natural disaster in our state's history. I believe the 5th worst in our country's history ranking behind Katrina. I believe we need to do what the state is supposed to do is come alongside the local community, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, other communities, come along the county management teams and see what we can do as well as with the federal government but do a cost benefit analysis.
Vander Plaats: What makes good common sense for prevention efforts but also then response efforts. I came to Cedar Rapids after the flood took place in a baseball cap and blue jeans and helped hand out things. To see the resilience of the people here in the I-80 corridor, it was truly inspiring for me. But it's also why you need a governor who can manage a budget. I mean, we should have had an economic emergency reserve fund, which used to be called the rainy day fund. I don't know if there would have ever been a time than the flood of 2008 for the rainy day fund to be in place.
Vander Plaats: As everybody was saying, let's get the people back into the homes, let's get the people back into the homes, I was saying that as well but I also wanted to get people back into business and industry. I think that would have been a great time for, again, Governor Culver to call a special session if nothing else for symbolically to say all hands on deck and then to provide some real property tax relief for business and industry so we can create an enterprise zone in Cedar Rapids, this I-80 corridor because as the strength of the I-80 corridor goes so goes the state of Iowa. But that takes leadership and management of a budget.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: The destruction caused by the flood is of a proportion that most Iowans, unless they have actually personally visited neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids, just can not comprehend and I have made several visits to those affected areas. And when we talk about the impact to the local economy you can't really fully understand just how significant and severe this impact was unless you see how it affected families. There are blocks and blocks of homes still in areas of Cedar Rapids that are unoccupied where just two weeks ago I spent time traveling through the northwest neighborhood area and met with members of the northwest neighborhood association and listened to them as they described the plight of still not having any resolution to the problems they have been dealing with ever since the flood.
Roberts: When that flood occurred, Chet Culver should have called the legislature into special session. We do have an economic emergency fund, it had $150 million in it. Republicans, I included, called for immediately appropriating every dollar out of the economic emergency fund for immediate flood relief and assistance and recovery. Instead only $50 million was appropriated, $100 million was held back. As governor I'll make certain that that is a priority and that we treat people well to begin with because it's their lives that have been devastated. Every dollar of that fund should have been appropriated to the flood affected areas in east central Iowa.
Fisher: Our next question comes from Paul Yeager.
Yeager: Let's talk about tax credits. There are issues of, or examples of exploited tax credits, we'll see the movie tax credit script for that story. But if you want to put more oversight in there that becomes more government. But if you reduce tax credits you're likely going to reduce activity that would come from those credits. So, what tax credit if you could add one and take one away which one would you do on either side?
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats, you start.
Vander Plaats: First of all, let me disagree politely with your premise because I believe you need to get government out of the business of picking winners and losers. And we saw that with the film tax credit incentive program on steroids. That is why I have advocated right away that we eliminate the corporate income tax because everybody understands zero, there is no program oversight at that point, there is no more bureaucracy to oversee that. I come from Sioux City, Iowa where we live right next to the border of South Dakota and believe me, zero percent sells.
Vander Plaats: So, first of all, we need to do a zero percent, get government out of the business of picking winners and losers. And then as I talked earlier, let's drastically reduce business and industry and commercial property tax. And you do that by removing mental health and developmental disabilities off of it because the only plan to really reduce property taxes is if you take something off the back of it. That is why I've said I'd like to see Iowa be the startup capitol of the world which means you also need to drastically reduce capital gains tax.
Vander Plaats: I've suggested from 8.98% to about 3.5% and the reason is we shouldn't be penalizing people for being successful because when they're successful and say they sell and they make a profit, and a profit by the way is still a good thing, and all of a sudden they have liquidity and they can invest and they can have private venture capital. We can be the startup capitol of the world but it's going to take leadership and it's going to be a tax structure, a regulatory structure and a governor that will market this state as a right to work state.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: There is no question but what the use of target tax credits has been the preferred method of stimulating the economy and incenting business here in Iowa. The dilemma has become over ten to twelve and more years we have now created so many of these programs that state government is actually now in the business of picking winners and losers and I think we've reached a point where we need to stop and evaluate all of these tax credits and determine perhaps there are some still doing the original intent and accomplishing something very good, you can keep those in place. Others we might reduce and still others we might just now eliminate them all together because they have served their purpose.
Roberts: I believe it would be far better to eliminate that approach in time and then replace it with simply eliminating taxes on business. I was the first republican candidate for governor to propose eliminating the corporate income tax. It would be better if we just leveled the playing field, provide the profit incentive for business to keep its own capital to invest in its own future expansion be it with facilities, purchasing new equipment, new technology. I've talked with business leaders across the state and asked what it would mean to their businesses if they had that capital available, if we eliminated the corporate income tax and they said they would invest in facilities development and it would lead to job creation. With 115,000 Iowans out of work we've got to do things dramatically different and prioritizing job creation through stimulating the private sector by tax cuts would be my preferred method.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: The targeted tax credit for movie making was a huge mistake and it's another example of the reckless and irresponsible way that Culver has managed -- they didn't put the right people in charge and they didn't oversee it. I started the department, I started the Film Office. We got Field of Dreams, Bridges of Madison County, Miles from Home, all kinds of movies here without a tax credit. We were able to attract them because of Iowa's friendliness and our cooperative spirit. We don't need to give away tens of millions of dollars and the Iowa taxpayers are now on the hook for that.
Branstad: But there are some tax credits that are important. The industrial job training tax credit that is administered by the community colleges started in 1983, has helped all kinds of Iowa companies expand and grow and new companies to locate in our state. We shouldn't eliminate that. We also should keep the research tax credit. That has helped Rockwell Collins, a big employer that had grown here, in this session the legislature is cutting that back. We wouldn't have gotten the expansion from Pioneer Hi-Bred or DuPont in Johnston if we didn't have that tax credit -- I can go on with many other quality, high-paying, high-tech jobs that we need to keep in Iowa. But we ought to reduce the ones that ineffective and wasteful and we ought to use that to reduce the tax rates for businesses.
Fisher: Our next question comes from Jeneane Beck.
Beck: If elected will you continue to support the Iowa Values Fund, the business grant and loan program created during the Vilsack administration and also the Renewable Energy Grant program established by Governor Culver known as the Iowa Power Fund? Mr. Roberts, we begin with you.
Roberts: I think this question aligns very well with the previous question. I think that the tendency of state government if provided resources people get creative and they start new programs. And I really question the wisdom of simply trying to devise state run programs to try and stimulate the private sector. I think much like the targeted tax credits we need to evaluate the Iowa Values Fund on an ongoing continual basis and the Iowa Power Fund and determine whether or not the amount of money appropriated for these programs is still at a proper level.
Roberts: $25 million is currently appropriated for the Iowa Power Fund. I think we ought to take a serious look at whether or not that is the amount of money actually needed. If not, we ought to reduce the appropriation. But ultimately, we ought to, I believe, move away from creating these programs where it's Des Moines trying to figure out how to stimulate the economy and simply say it's time that state government stop meddling and provide a friendly business environment through a friendly tax program as well as a friendly regulatory environment and I think we get a whole lot more out of our businesses if we allowed them to simply compete and have those incentives to be profitable than what we'd get through these specially created programs by those who think they know best in Des Moines.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: I agree with Representative Roberts. I think we ought to be reducing these new credits that have been created and use that money instead to reduce the tax rate for businesses, to make Iowa more competitive, level the playing field so that our tax rates are lower than our neighboring states and so it's welcoming to businesses to want to expand and grow in Iowa. When we got rid of the tax on machinery and equipment it made a big difference in getting capital intensive companies here. People like PMX and Cedar River Paper located here in the Linn County area and all over the state of Iowa. The whole complex at Eddyville, Roquette and many others located in our state and if we could reduce the corporate tax rates and if we can reduce the commercial, the property tax on commercial property I think we can have similar growth and that’s how I think we can generate the jobs and the wealth and keep more of our young people here once they graduate from education.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: Well, let me attempt to answer the question. First of all, with the Values Fund, to me that was the government trying to pick winners and losers on steroids. If I remember Governor Vilsack at the time he said he was doing the Values Fund so that we could compete with South Dakota. If I recall Governor Rounds of South Dakota, he took out a full page ad and it said three words, bring it on. And the reason is Governor Rounds knew that the amount of tax a corporation pays, that sells. And that's why I have advocated for the zero percent corporate income tax and then drastically reducing property tax by taking something off the back of it and bringing it to the state level.
Vander Plaats: So, the Values Fund, I don't think that's the right approach. I think creating a level and fair playing field for everybody. As it goes to the Iowa Power Fund, I think if you do a cost benefit analysis on that the cost has been exorbitant to the state really for the benefit that has come out of it. I support the renewable fuels energy, I'm not big into mandates but I am big into the marketplace. I think we need to move from E-10 to E-20. I think it needs to be in our distribution center that we have a better distribution outlet.
Vander Plaats: And it's good to talk about machinery and equipment taxes and removing that but if I talk to local leaders they say it's one of the reasons we're in the top five of property taxes today because it just got dumped on the back of property taxes. If you're going to remove it you need to bring it to the state level and that is what I advocate with doing that with mental health and developmental disabilities to really reduce property taxes so they have a real savings.
Fisher: Our next topic for discussion will be immigration. Our first question is Paul Yeager's.
Yeager: On Friday, two of you came out in favor of a bill, adopting a bill similar to what Arizona passed and signed into legislation this week. With that in mind, Iowa's struggling to retain people, especially in the rural areas. How can immigration be used to repopulate the state?
Fisher: Mr. Branstad, you start.
Branstad: Well, first of all, I'm proud to say that Iowa has always been very welcoming to people that come here legally. Governor Ray helped welcome people from Southeast Asia. When I was governor the Berlin Wall went down, the Soviet Union collapsed and we had a lot of people come from Eastern Europe, they came here legally, we welcomed them, they have done well and become good citizens. But we don't want people coming here illegally and using our resources and as we said before we don't want them to be able to take welfare and Medicaid and Iowa Cares money away from our own citizens.
Branstad: And we don't want sanctuary cities and we don't want to see amnesty for people that come here illegally. You saw what happened up in Postville. Now, the good news is the individual that was responsible for that has been convicted and is going to spend a long time in prison. The new owner, Hershey Friedman, is coming with a whole new attitude. He has invested $40 million in that plant at Postville, he's already hired 600 or 700 people back and he is providing good opportunities and he is checking to make sure all the people that are employed there are there legally.
Branstad: That's what we need to require and expect from our employers in the state of Iowa. If the federal government refuses to enforce and it is their responsibility to enforce the immigration laws then we should work with local law enforcement to fashion something that meets Iowa. We're not Arizona, we're not a border state, we ought to do something that fits the needs of our state, Iowa.
Fisher: Thank you very much, Mr. Branstad. Mr. Vander Plaats:
Vander Plaats: Well, again, when I came out with my economic development platform you would see that I wanted to make Iowa hospitable for Iowans, I wanted to make Iowa hospitable for those people who left Iowa who want to come back to Iowa but I also said I want to embrace legal immigration, I want to attract the best and the brightest here to start up business and industry. It's not that I'm against immigration. As a matter of fact, I've said if you let the Dutch in, Vander Plaats, you should let anybody in. But they came here legally and that's the key difference.
Vander Plaats: Now, on illegal immigration, there's nothing honoring about being illegal. And I believe we need to hold accountable -- we have a federal government that has been completely inept on this. And Governor Branstad is right, we're not Arizona, but illegal is illegal and Iowans still have a real respect for the rule of law. So, I believe we need to hold those who are here illegally accountable. I believe we need to hold those people who knowingly employ, knowingly transport or knowingly harbor accountable and hopefully if enough states like Arizona, like Oklahoma, when I'm governor like Iowa, we say, you know what, we are going to hold accountable because we have a respect for the rule of law.
Vander Plaats: Maybe the federal government will start listening. Maybe Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will say, you know what, they're telling us they don't want us to take over their health care but that's what we're doing but they also tell us they want us to seal the borders and enforce a process of illegal immigration and that's not what we're doing. Maybe the federal government needs to listen but they're not going to listen then I think the states need to stand up and take a role here and I think that is the responsibility of the next governor of the state of Iowa.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: Iowa has always been a very welcoming place and we're certainly a people comprised of many different cultures and ethnic groups. And people still desire to come to the United States and people come to Iowa and we welcome them but they come here legally. One of the reasons why Iowans feel so strongly about this issue is because Iowans, like American everywhere but particularly here in Iowa, we highly value and prize the meaning and value of citizenship. It's something very precious.
Roberts: And those who come and who come here legally and work hard and many of them go on to apply for citizenship and they become citizens, they too highly prize that very important status. But those who come illegally should know that when it comes to the law it will be enforced. The citizens of this state are not obligated to provide taxpayer funded benefits to people who are here illegally. If they are here illegally we should say no to providing benefits, remove the incentive for being here and they will relocate somewhere else.
Roberts: I believe we should require people to verify that they are actually who they are when they apply for benefits from the state of Iowa. Businesses should also verify that people they employ are here legally and if businesses don't do that then there should be punitive measures. We want to welcome people, we want Iowa to be home to new people, but we want them to come legally and enjoy citizenship like all of the rest of us do.
Fisher: Our next question comes from Jeneane Beck.
Beck: Should the children of illegal immigrants be allowed to qualify for in-state tuition at the colleges and community colleges in Iowa. Mr. Vander Plaats?
Vander Plaats: No, and it's not because I'm against the children but it is an opportunity for those, again, who are legal, to qualify for those opportunities whether it be community colleges or whether it be for regent universities or for private colleges. Again, to go back to the business for a second, businesses are not INS agents. I also think that we need to develop a process where businesses clearly know is this person here legally or are they here illegally. It's for those businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants that we hold them accountable.
Vander Plaats: And when you hold those businesses accountable I believe then you'll dry up the reason for them to be here, for families to be here and then all of a sudden there won't be the burden on our Department of Human Services, Department of Education or inside of our schools. But on the academic side of it as well, Jeneane, I want to put out one other thing from an academic standpoint. If there are students in our schools who can't speak the English language, the most honoring thing to do for that student and for that student's peers is make sure that student learns English first before they go through academic curriculum, that honors that student to go through academic curriculum so that he or she can be successful but it also honors that students peers that we're speaking a common language with inside our classrooms, English is our common language, so that the whole class can advance together.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: To the earlier question related to immigration, if you eliminate those taxpayer provided state benefits to adults who are here illegally and if it's not possible for them to be employed, to have a job without being here legally these folks will not live here, they will move from Iowa and when they move, their children will move with them. I think the secret to addressing this problem is very simply we deal with the adults who are here illegally, make it so that there isn't an incentive to stay if you're here illegally and in time I think we address the illegal immigration problem that challenges Iowa and we're certainly not a border state like Arizona. We need to custom tailor the way that we address this problem based on the situation here in Iowa and we certainly have to take the initiative on our own because the federal government is unwilling to do that on our behalf.
Roberts: So, as governor I will proactively work toward ensuring that only those who are qualified, who are here legally and who are citizens receive taxpayer benefits if they are needed. Those who are not here legally should not receive them and I think that also eventually addresses the issue of children or young people.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: Children of people that are here illegally should not get the benefits of in-state tuition at any of our colleges or universities. I also agree with Representative Roberts, we need to verify, we need to ensure that people are getting benefits whether it's from the Department of Human Services or other departments or agencies of government, verify that they are here legally. If they are not they should not be receiving benefits.
Branstad: I actually served on a commission on health care and when former Governor Vilsack and some of the democrats on that committee were insisting that we provide health care benefits, which the federal government doesn't even do, to children of illegals not only did I vote against it, I resigned because that is not the reason -- we should be, yes, trying to provide health care coverage for people in our state that have needs but this idea of providing benefits for people that are here illegally absolutely not, we need to draw the line on that.
Fisher: Our next question from Todd Dorman.
Dorman: There has been talk among you of savings possibly by ending illegal immigration but aren't there also budgetary burdens that might be born by local governments and state government if you take over immigration enforcement from the federal government?
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: Well, I think if you're someone in law enforcement and even if you're the governor or someone in an elected position your first responsibility if you've taken the oath to the Constitution and the oath implies and states you're going to uphold the law you enforce the law. There would be cost probably associated with enforcing the law that requires that we look very carefully at how we're addressing our illegal immigrant problem.
Roberts: The concern that I have if you adopted Arizona's law just as it is written the implication is someone who is actually convicted of being here illegally could be in prison for up to six months. That's where the real cost issue comes. If you were going to provide jail space and prison space for all of these individuals how much money is that going to cost the taxpayers of Iowa? So, there is an effect. I'm not sure given the numbers in Iowa and the range is maybe 30,000 to 50,000 if we have near the problem that Arizona does but we're going to require law enforcement, you enforce the law. And certainly if you're the governor of Iowa you don't tell law enforcement ignore the law, you enforce the law and you do what the law requires you to do.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: Well, immigration is a primary responsibility of the federal government but state and local law enforcement need to work and enforce it. I would also point out, we are paying a big price right now for the meth and other illegal drugs that are being smuggled here by illegals and it's costing us a lot, it's costing us lives of Iowa's citizens and it's also costing us law enforcement. So, I think if we're effective in keeping the illegals out we can also help reduce the meth trade and some of the other illegal and also let alone keeping out the dangerous terrorists that want to do harm to us. That is an important part of it as well.
Branstad: I think we need to keep the pressure on the federal government to live up to their part of the bargain, it's their responsibility but we also need to work closely with state and local law enforcement as they have been doing in trying to deal with the meth and some of the other problems. But we need to make sure that we're effectively dealing with that to protect the safety and well-being of our citizens. That is the primary responsibility of the governor and the elected officials in the state.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: I don't know about you but I do know about me, I'm tired of relying on the federal government. In our house we have a simple saying and the saying goes like this, you'll never be right when you do what's wrong but you'll never be wrong when you do what's right. I believe holding people accountable to the highest of standards, especially something that this country was built on, immigration, is the right thing to do.
Vander Plaats: And, again, Todd, I probably disagree with the premise of the question. I don't think we're going to absorb more cost. I think we're actually going to save money if we hold people who are here illegally accountable. I visited with a drug agency task force and as I sat down and visited with them I said, what's the answer to this problem? They were talking to me about how we're almost like a distribution warehouse for illegal drugs and illegal weapons and they are hiding under a legal base of population which is dishonoring, again, to the people who are here legally.
Vander Plaats: And their response to me was, you need to secure the border, you need to hold illegal immigrants accountable for being here. So, I believe that's what we need to do so we'll respect the rule of law. So, I don’t think it's going to cost a lot more money, but the federal government is going to be inept in this case, I think the state of Iowa needs to take responsibility, needs to take leadership, have the highest of standards and hold those who are here illegally accountable.
Fisher: It's time to change topics again and this time our topic will be same-sex marriage. With the first question, Jeneane Beck.
Beck: There has been some division among you of how to address the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. If you do not win the republican nomination will you urge conservative members of your party to support the nominee? We'll begin with you, Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: Yes, of course, I'm a team player and I have always supported the republican party and the nominee and I will support the nominee for governor and I will support all the republican candidates because I think it's critically important, we're at a critical crossroads, the national debt under Obama has gone up $1.4 trillion, under Culver we've got reckless and irresponsible spending and he has not made good decisions, he has not chosen good people, he doesn't even have budget hearings. So, we must have a new governor and we must have new leadership and I'm going to do all I can to work hard for this republican effort and to be successful.
Branstad: Obviously I want to be and I hope to be the nominee. But I will wholeheartedly work for and support the nominee and the entire republican team.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: I believe I've proven to be a team player. Most of you know in 2006 I laid down my bid for governor to join Jim Nussle as lieutenant governor to bring the party together so that we would have a united front so that we could win. Obviously that didn't work out. What I will say is that I have never endorsed a democrat. And so I don't know about being a team player if it just has state borders because I believe, Governor Branstad, you did endorse Ben Nelson who helped give us socialized medicine when you skipped the river into Nebraska when we could have won that ...
Branstad: I never went to Nebraska ...
Vander Plaats: But you did endorse Ben Nelson, is that correct?
Branstad: He is a long-time friend and I was out of office at the time.
Vander Plaats: But we still endorsed a democrat.
Branstad: I know, but this is supposed to be on the subject.
Vander Plaats: This is on the subject, it’s about being a …
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats, please finish up your answer.
Vander Plaats: It’s about being a team player. I do plan on being the republican nominee. And what I would tell you as the republican nominee, whether it’s Representative Roberts or former Governor Branstad or myself, it carries a huge responsibility. And that responsibility is to authentically earn the endorsement and support of the peers in the race as well as the peer’s followers in the race. I think when that happens republican are going to be inspired, republicans are going to win back the governorship. I believe republicans will win back the Iowa House and I think it will make great gains if not win back the Iowa Senate. This state wants new leadership but they want leadership that is committed to principled, conservative values with a compelling vision for the state of Iowa.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: I will certainly support the nominee of the Republican Party. Iowans, whether they are republicans, independent registered voters and, yes, even democrats believe that Chet Culver has failed in his leadership position as the governor of our state. They would like to see a new governor and I believe they’re looking for a conservative governor to lead Iowa into the future. It’s important that republicans be united and I believe I’m the candidate that can best unite republicans and then I think I can also share a message with all Iowans that can bring us together. We need to be a united party. I will support the nominee. Obviously I believe that I am the best candidate to take on Chet Culver. I’m the republican he doesn’t want to see in November. But I will certainly support the republican nominee for governor. Any one of us up here this afternoon will do a far better job as the governor of Iowa than Chet Culver. He needs to go.
Fisher: Next question from Todd Dorman:
Dorman: Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats, you’re first to answer.
Vander Plaats: I’ve taken a very bold issue on this, Todd, and I happen to believe that marriage is a foundation to society. I believe it was designed for procreation and the development of a civilized society and that is a personal conviction of mine, it’s not a political position of mine. However, I think it goes beyond that because what the Supreme Court did on April 3, 2009, quite frankly, they can’t do. They legislated from the bench when they made law. They executed from the bench when they ordered all 99 counties to follow suit. They can’t execute anything.
Vander Plaats: But worse than that they attempted to amend your Constitution by saying they’re going to hold up Iowa’s Constitution to an evolving standard with every generation. They don’t get to evolve our Constitution. Only we the people get to amend and evolve the Constitution. That’s why I’ve been the only candidate to say, you know what, we need to hold the Supreme Court in check and I plan on doing that on day one to issue the executive order, to place a stay on that April 3 opinion halting same-sex marriages until the legislature either deals with it or until they pass it off to the people of Iowa for a vote.
Vander Plaats: This is a freedom issue because if they’ll do this with marriage, they will do this with private property, they’ll do it with free speech, they’ll do it with freedom of religion, free enterprise, the 10th amendment, the 2nd amendment, any freedom we hold dear. And that’s why when the governor upholds the oath to the Constitution, part of that includes separation of powers. That’s why I will insert myself on day one.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: I think the harm that has been done is what I have discovered is the response of Iowans across the state who are unhappy that they have not been allowed the opportunity to weigh in on this very important issue. When the branches of government have such a sharp disagreement over a subject as important as the definition of marriage the Constitution says go directly to the people and give them an opportunity to address that issue and consider amending their state Constitution by putting that statute into the supreme law. What I have heard from Iowans all across the state is let us vote. I believe that’s the right thing to do, it’s the respectful thing to do. So, the harm has been when it comes to the people of Iowa and their attitude toward elected officials thwarting their will that simply asks let us vote on the question.
Roberts: I don’t believe that the governor can hold the Supreme Court in check. The people of Iowa hold the justices of our Supreme Court to accountability. In November there will be a retention election on the general election ballot and three of our current justice will be up for retention. The people of Iowa will make a decision about these justices. We are all, whether you’re the governor, a legislator or a justice of the Supreme Court, accountable to the people. They hold all of us in check.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: The Supreme Court is not above the law but neither is the governor. And what Bob is advocating clearly won’t hold up. When Vilsack tried to do something like that by executive order Congressman Steve King when he was a state senator sued and was successful and it was struck down by the court. You will not be successful in that effort. Instead, I agree with Representative Roberts, the final say should be with the people and that’s what the people are so angry about, that an unelected Supreme Court went against the will of the people in a law that I signed, Defense of Marriage Act, that says marriage is between one man and one woman. The people should have a right to vote on that.
Branstad: The only thing that is preventing that is the democratic leaders in the house and the senate are not letting that resolution come up for a vote. We need to replace them. That is arrogant and irresponsible. We need to replace them with responsible republicans that will let the people vote on this. I believe Iowans will do what 31 other states have done and that is through a Constitutional amendment voted the people restore one man, one woman marriage and that’s in this state – every state where it’s come up for a vote from Maine to California it’s been approved. That’s what we need to do in Iowa.
Fisher: Our next question comes from Paul Yeager.
Yeager: If you the three of you, or one of you, one of the three of you are elected governor your inauguration will be almost two years after the April decision. Would same-sex marriage still be a top three priority at that point?
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: I have concluded based on what I’ve heard from Iowans that this will be a priority with them. Even though I believe we have multiple challenges confronting us as a state, whether it be out of control spending and a budget mess the likes we’ve not seen, that will be a top priority of mine as governor to restrain this uncontrolled spending and realign expenditures with revenue, to focus on what it takes to stimulate our economy, to see businesses expand and create thousands of new jobs, this will be a lingering concern for Iowans because, again, it illustrates something fundamentally important to Iowans, in a matter of this importance we have made it abundantly clear that we want to weigh in on this and we want to answer that question.
Roberts: 31 other states, when the people have been allowed to vote on the question, have held traditional marriage as one man, one woman. This is not going to go away and even if that inauguration is two years removed from the court’s ruling, the people have made it clear we still want to vote because this ultimately is about respect for the people who are in charge of government. It’s not the court. It’s not the legislature. It’s not the governor. The people of this state are in charge of their government and they want to vote on this and I’m sure they will be as passionate about this in two years as they were right after April 3rd.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: I agree. The people of Iowa deserve the right to vote on an issue of this magnitude. As governor, my priority is going to be to restore fiscal responsibility and put the focus on jobs. But I am also responsive to the people and the people are angry that the court has struck down a law that was duly enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor and they deserve a right to vote on a Constitutional amendment to restore one man, one woman marriage and I will support the effort to see that that gets done. And the way we can do that is to elect a republican house and senate that will give this an opportunity to come to a vote. There are democrats in the house and senate that would vote for it given the opportunity but their leaders have not let it come to a vote. That’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s not representative government, it needs to change.
Fisher: Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: That’s why we need leadership. This is a key differential in this race. I was speaking to the University of Iowa college republicans and I had a young man say to me, he said, Mr. Vander Plaats, with jobs and the economy, with budget, with education, with everything else are you sure on day one you want to issue the executive order? I said, yes, I want to issue the executive order because it is about being responsive to the will of the people, it’s about leadership, it’s about holding the court in check. What Governor Vilsack tried to do is he tried to create law by saying felons should have the right to vote.
Branstad: He wanted to let men, two men …
Vander Plaats: Is this the end of my time? Is this it?
Fisher: Mr. Branstad …
Branstad: You’re wrong in what you’re saying.
Vander Plaats: I think I’m right with my time. When Governor Vilsack tried to allow felons the right to vote, Steve King stepped in and said, you can’t give felons the right to vote, you can’t legislate from the governor’s office. I’m not legislating from the governor’s office. I’m holding a court in check. So, if a court says, I’m going to take your private property or I’m going to take your guns do we say, you know what, let’s let the people vote on this four years from now in 2014? No, what it needs to be is the governor needs to insert himself and say on day one I’m holding the court in check and we’re going to follow the process, not for the governor to make law, but for the legislature to make law, not for the governor to execute law and for the people of Iowa to amend the Constitution because no matter what economic development policy you have, education policy you have, budgetary policy you have, if the court can just turn it over then why have a legislature, why have a governor?
Vander Plaats: That’s why David Barton of WallBuilders, he endorses this campaign. So many constitutional lawyers and historians, they want this issue because they believe that not only will it provide leadership for Iowa but it will provide leadership across the country.
Fisher: Thank you very much, Mr. Vander Plaats. And our next topic will be dealing with health care. The first question is Todd Dorman.
Dorman: Do you believe that obesity is a problem that should be addressed through government action such as limiting unhealthy ingredients in food? Mr. Branstad?
Branstad: First of all, I spent the last six years and three months as the President of Des Moines University and we got the Wellness Council of America platinum award for what we did for wellness for our faculty, staff and students. And what we did is we focused on helping preserve health and we did health risk assessments for all faculty, staff and students. We focused on nutrition and exercise and things like that. No, I don’t think government ought to be in there mandating on what foods you can buy, I don’t think so at all. I like the approach that Hy-Vee is using right now.
Branstad: What Hy-Vee is doing, and they are doing this voluntarily and I think it’s a great idea and I’d like Iowa to become the healthiest state in the nation and I want to work with Rick Jurgens and Hy-Vee on this, and that is they are labeling nutrition values of their foods from 1 to 100 and then you can choose as a consumer to do the right thing. And I also think in our insurance we ought to say if you do the wrong thing, if you don’t do things to reduce your risk such as cholesterol and things like that or smoking then you’re going to pay more in insurance rates than somebody who does the right things.
Branstad: But government ought not be in there mandating what foods you ought to buy or what foods you ought to consume. That is an individual consumer choice. We ought to do all we can to educate people about the importance of good nutrition in avoiding high risk foods.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: The answer to the question, Todd, no I don’t believe government should be in the business of mandating the food intake that we have. I think it’s a freedom choice of ours. However, I do believe there is a role for the governor in this area to model nutrition as well. I try to run 25 miles a week. Part of the reason is I’ve eaten a lot of pizza on this tour, pizza and politics, all around the state right now so I try to run 25 miles a week.
Vander Plaats: But it’s also the intake. I’ll be the first one to admit I like ice cream and I eat ice cream very night but right now I’ve been 62 days without it, the last 100 days of the campaign I gave up ice cream because I’m going to celebrate with a cold one on primary night, a cold bowl of ice cream that is. I think we can model it. I think we can also provide education for that but I don’t think the government should be in the role of mandating what we eat. I think the more we’re educated, the more we take better care of ourselves, that is in our best interest.
Vander Plaats: That’s why I’m a big supporter of health savings accounts, medical savings accounts, that is personal responsibility for your health care. I think that is a very, very good thing so I’d be much more on the modeling approach and the education approach, not on what we mandate.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: Well, this is where we catch up on whatever time we’ve been losing because I’m not going to take a full 90 seconds. A lot has been said by the other two gentlemen and I agree with them. The short answer to the question is no, it’s not the role of government to be mandating something like telling Iowans or Americans you’re obese and this is what you’re going to have to do to address your problem. So, I agree with the statements made earlier and it’s not the role of government to get that intrusive in people’s lives.
Fisher: Our next question will come from Paul Yeager and due to the time right now we’re going to make these answers 60 seconds, candidates. So, Mr. Yeager, your next question.
Yeager: That means I have to talk faster.
Fisher: No, it doesn’t but go right ahead.
Yeager: Tobacco use has dropped dramatically since the Smoke Free Act became law. Now, there’s still an exemption, though, for casino floors. As governor, would you sign a bill dropping the exemption for those casino floors?
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: Yes. But I’ll take the other 58 seconds on this. I think this is the height of government areas to say we’re going to pass smoke free in all the private establishments around the state, but by the way, we’re going to exempt our own casinos on this deal. So, I think it’s a fairness issue. As a matter of fact, one of my first fundraisers last summer I had an eighth grader ask me that question saying, Mr. Vander Plaats, when you get elected governor will you make casinos smoke free as well? The reason is they saw it as a fairness issue. But I also think this is a private property issue and therefore I think if we’re not going to make it equitable across the board including casinos then we need a law to be a private property issue and, again, let the marketplace determine where do I eat, do I want to eat in a smoke free environment or do I want to eat in an environment that allows smoke? Darla and I choose every time to eat in a smoke free environment. I happen to like that. But this is a fairness and an equity issue so I would make the casinos smoke free as well.
Fisher: Mr. Roberts.
Roberts: That was one of the most significant flaws in that legislation that was passed and I served in the Iowa House at the time that bill was debated, when it was passed. One of the reasons why I voted no on that legislation and I’m someone who does not smoke, does not advocate people smoke, was because it was the height of hypocrisy for those who were proponents of that legislation to say that in the private sector, private businesses we think this is in your best interest and, by the way, we don’t think you’ll lose out on business at all, you’ll still be profitable. But when it came to state government all of a sudden we couldn’t allow the gaming floors in our casinos to be smoke free because we might jeopardize revenue for the state of Iowa. You can’t have it both ways. If it was good for the private sector it should have been good for state government. I would sign that legislation and I would also make the gaming floors exempt.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: The answer is yes I would sign legislation so that the casinos also would be covered by the smoke free law. I would also point out, my wife is probably the original militant non-smoker. We eliminated smoking in our house back in the 70s, we eliminated it the first day I became governor in 1983 in both the governor’s office and Terrace Hill. I moved the ashtrays out of there. We eventually eliminated the sale of cigarettes in the Capitol and other places. I would have signed that law long ago if the legislature had approved it but we had smokers in control of the legislature for too long and I just feel that we ought to extend it across the board and we ought not be exempting it. It’s too dangerous, it causes too many health problems and I think it’s been a good thing that we have that law in Iowa. I just wished that when tax cigarettes they would use it to reduce other taxes instead of spent the money as the democrats did in control of the legislature.
Fisher: Candidates, one final question and looking at the time you probably only have about 30 seconds for a final answer on this. I’m sorry, I know. Jeneane.
Beck: Governor Culver recently asked an independent, third-party to review and 18% rate hike proposed by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The rate hike was approved and I think goes into effect today. Is there a role that government should play in limiting premium increases by Iowa insurance companies? Mr. Roberts, we begin with you.
Roberts: 30 seconds is the lightening round I guess. The governor appoints people to boards, commissions and in this case to departments or agencies. We have an insurance commissioner. There are people who are charged with responsibilities to look at issues like that. I think it’s more appropriate to simply allow the people you put in positions of authority to do their job. They are professionals. They are supposed to understand the issues and know how to make the right decisions on behalf of state government and the executive branch and I think it would be far better just to let the insurance commissioner be the director of that.
Fisher: Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: The insurance commissioner has that responsibility. The governor should not be second guessing his appointee, the insurance commissioner. If he’s not satisfied with the person that he’s got then he should have somebody that he is satisfied with and not be second guessing that person and going to additional taxpayer’s expense to do another review when it’s already been done by the staff of the insurance commissioner.
Fisher: Mr. Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: Here’s an area where I agree with both Representative Roberts and former Governor Branstad so don’t let me take a lot of time on that. I think the real issue here is driving down health care costs. If we’re going to drive down health care costs it’s going to come down to personal responsibility, incentives like health savings accounts, medical savings accounts. I believe true medical liability reform, stop suing the pants off our medical community, increase access to pools of risk and increase insurant providers coverage here in the state of Iowa because competition will drive down costs.
Vander Plaats: I believe Iowa should be a leader in private delivery of health care, not the federal government takeover of health care.
Fisher: That concludes our question and answer time with our media panel. Now, each of the candidates will have a 90 second closing remark to end our debate today. We will first of all start with Bob Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats: First I want to thank you, the moderators and the Iowa Broadcasters Association and Iowa Public Television as well as my peers in this race. I think it’s clear today that Iowa needs new leadership. If you ask those who are closest to me, my family, my friends, students, athletes, peers who have worked with me or served with me or people who have employed me, they would say I’m positive and I’m optimistic. I believe Iowa needs a positive and optimistic leader today. But they would also tell you that I’m very, very persistent. I think even my two peers in this race would tell you I’m a very, very persistent candidate but I believe Iowa needs a persistent governor today.
Vander Plaats: But I’m also a leader who is willing to confront the brutal facts and be honest with the people of Iowa as we move this state forward. That’s why I have an education plan to return Iowa to prominence in education, not to go back to the past where we grew bureaucracy at the expense of the classroom, but to actually simplify the system where we can restore Iowa to the prominence based on parental rights and control, not government control.
Vander Plaats: Also, we rolled out an economic development plan. We need a positive, optimistic and persistent leader here as well so we have a competitive tax structure, so we have a friendly regulatory structure and a governor who will market this state as a right to work state. I also believe it’s time that we have a CEO from the private sector, not the public sector, someone that produces more but with less. I want to grow the private sector, not the public sector. I thank you for being here today. I’d ask that you join our team, bobvp.com.
Fisher: Thank you very much, Mr. Vander Plaats. Rod Roberts.
Roberts: I would like to thank the Iowa Broadcast News Association, Iowa Public Television, Mediacom and the journalists who are with us today for the outstanding job they have done and the opportunity to speak to Iowans. Iowans are going to bring about change in 2010. Chet Culver has failed this state and the people of Iowa want a new governor. They want conservative leadership. They want a conservative governor who is grounded in Iowa common sense and traditional Iowa values, values that I have held to throughout my life.
Roberts: I served ten years in the Iowa House, eight of those years in a leadership role and currently serve as senior member of the house republican leadership team. I understand the challenges that we’re confronting and Chet Culver knows that in the general election campaign I can not only unite republicans but I can cast a compelling, conservative message to all Iowans that will attract independents and democrats alike.
Roberts: I can win in November. I would encourage you to find out more about me by visiting my campaign Web site, robertsforgov.com. Iowa is at a crossroads and it’s time for new leadership. I would respectfully ask for your support and for your vote in the June 8th republican primary election. It’s time for change, time for conservative leadership. I’m prepared to lead. I can win in November. Thank you.
Fisher: Thank you very much, Mr. Roberts. Mr. Branstad.
Branstad: I too want to thank the Iowa Broadcast News Association, the panelists and Iowa Public Television for this opportunity. Iowans are genuinely fearful and concerned about Governor Culver’s reckless and irresponsible actions and yet Iowans are hopeful with the right leadership we can see an economic comeback in this state. And I think Iowans know that I have the experience and the ability to lead that comeback in Iowa. I love this state. I gave up a good job that I love because I want to lead this state and I want to see us have an unprecedented time of growth and opportunity for all of our citizens.
Branstad: I know given the opportunity Iowans will exceed expectations. That is why I’ve set ambitious goals, 2000 new jobs in the next five years, raising family incomes by 25%, reducing the size and cost of government by at least fifteen percent and making our education system best in America again. I know we can do it working together. I love this state and I appreciate this opportunity to visit directly with the people of Iowa. I would ask you to go to my Web site, www.governorbranstad2010.com and join our efforts. I would appreciate and sincerely ask for your vote in the primary election on June 8th, 2010. Thank you very much.
Fisher: Thank you very much, Mr. Branstad. That does conclude our 2010 GOP gubernatorial debate. I wish to once again thank our candidates for agreeing to be with us today, Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts. I appreciate you agreeing to be with us here today in Cedar Rapids. I also want to thank the members of our media panel that joined us today as well, Paul Yeager from Iowa Public Television, Jeneane Beck from Iowa Public Radio and Todd Dorman here from the Gazette here in Cedar Rapids. I also wish to thank the staff and management here at the Cedar Rapids Marriott for helping us and providing the facility to host our debate today. On behalf of the membership of the Iowa Broadcast News Association, I’m Bob Fisher. Thank you very much for joining us.
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