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Reporters Roundtable (#3031)
March 21, 2003

Borg: AT THE IOWA STATEHOUSE, THE FIRST SESSION OF THE 80TH IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS IN ITS FINAL WEEKS. STATEHOUSE JOURNALISTS ANALYZE LEGISLATIVE PROGRESS ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION... GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES AND FRIENDS WHO FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT THE PROGRAMS THEY WATCH ON IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA... THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, MARCH 21 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: WE EXPECTED TO HAVE SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY AT THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE FOR THIS WEEK'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS"; HOWEVER, INTERNATIONAL SITUATIONS AND PRESSING CONGRESSIONAL BUSINESS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., IS KEEPING MR. GRASSLEY IN WASHINGTON. WE HOPE TO HAVE HIM HERE NEXT WEEKEND ON "IOWA PRESS." WELL, OF COURSE, THE TOP NEWS OF THE DAY COMES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST. HERE IN IOWA, THE 2003 LEGISLATIVE SESSION, THOUGH, CONTINUES. AND IF THAT SCHEDULED 110-DAY SESSION HOLDS, ONLY ABOUT 42 DAYS REMAIN. THE TOP AGENDA ITEM WHEN THE SESSION WAS GAVELLED TO ORDER ON MONDAY, JANUARY 13, REMAINS TODAY, AND THAT'S THE FORGING OF THE NEW IOWA BUDGET IN THE SHADOW OF BIG DEFICITS AND MEETING THE 2004 STATE OBLIGATIONS. WE'VE GATHERED IOWA STATEHOUSE REPORTERS TO DISCUSS THE ISSUES TODAY: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN, "RADIO IOWA" NEWS DIRECTOR KAY HENDERSON, "KUNI" STATEHOUSE REPORTER JENEANE BECK, AND "LEE NEWSPAPERS" DES MOINES BUREAU CHIEF KATHIE OBRADOVICH. KATHIE, I'VE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE BIG NEWS, EVERYBODY IS GLUED TO THE TV SETS AND READING THE NEWSPAPERS ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE EAST. IN FACT, AREN'T YOU THE ONLY REPORTERS WHO AREN'T IN THE MIDDLE EAST? [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: WE'VE BEEN EMBEDDED IN THE STATEHOUSE.

Borg: KATHIE, HAS THERE BEEN ANY EFFECT ON STATE GOVERNMENT AS A RESULT OF WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAQ?

Obradovich: WELL, REALLY, MOST OF THE EFFECT WE'RE SEEING IS THE EFFECT OF THE TERROR ALERT BEING AT A HIGH LEVEL, AN ORANGE LEVEL, WHICH IT HAS BEEN BEFORE -- BEFORE NOW. BUT STATE GOVERNMENT, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE DOING SOME HOMELAND SECURITY THINGS THAT ARE RELATED TO THAT HIGH STATE OF ALERT. WE'VE GOT OUR EMERGENCY SERVICE FOLKS IN A BUNKER OVER AT --

Borg: CAMP DODGE.

Obradovich: YES, AT CAMP DODGE. BUT REALLY, THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN ON TELEVISION AND TELLING US IN THE MEDIA THAT HE REALLY EXPECTS PEOPLE TO GO ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS. HE EXPECTS THAT THERE WON'T BE A MAJOR EFFECT ON IOWA. THE THREAT TO IOWA, OBVIOUSLY, IS PRETTY DARN LOW. SO HE'S REALLY SAYING GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. AND I THINK WHAT WE SAW IN THE LEGISLATURE LAST WEEK WAS THAT THEY WERE, IN FACT, DOING JUST THAT. THEY SPENT A LOT OF TIME DEBATING BILLS, NOT A LOT OF TIME TALKING ABOUT ANY KIND OF WAR EFFECT.

Borg: KAY, IT MIGHT BE -- TRANSLATE INTO A MONETARY THREAT, IF ANYTHING. IF THERE IS MONEY BEING SPENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST, THAT STATE BUDGET THAT I REFERRED TO IN THE INTRODUCTION HERE MIGHT BE EVEN TIGHTER.

Henderson: RIGHT. ECONOMISTS WILL TELL YOU THAT ONE OF THE REASONS OUR ECONOMY HAS BEEN IN SORT OF A SLUMP IS BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT OF THE WAR. PEOPLE HAD BEEN SORT OF HOLDING BACK SPENDING. HOME SALES REALLY PLUMMETED IN THE PAST MONTH, AND YOU SAW THAT HERE IN IOWA AS WELL. AND SO NOW THAT THE UNCERTAINTY IS OVER, WE KNOW WE'RE AT WAR. SOME OF THAT TENSION IN THE ECONOMY HAS BEEN RELEASED. SO NOW ECONOMISTS ARE TRYING TO DETERMINE, YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL SPENDING BE DURING THE DURATION OF THIS WAR AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN AFTER THE WAR.

Borg: AND SPENDING IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE THAT BRINGS IN TAX REVENUE.

Henderson: EXACTLY.

Borg: BUT THEN THE STATE MAY HAVE MORE EXPENSES JUST IN HOMELAND SECURITY TOO, SO THAT TIGHTENS AN ALREADY VERY TIGHT STATE BUDGET.

Henderson: YES, IT DOES. IN FACT, THE NEW TASKS THAT THE STATE UNDERTOOK THIS PAST ALERT LEVEL RAISING BETWEEN IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF $4- TO $8 MILLION IS NOT GOING TO BE FULLY REIMBURSED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. SO THE STATES ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BEAR SOME OF THE COSTS. THE FEDS ARE GOING TO BEAR SOME OF IT, BUT IT HAS MADE WHAT HAD BEEN A TIGHT STATE BUDGET ALREADY TIGHTER.

Yepsen: THERE ARE MORE SECURITY COSTS. THE GOVERNOR WAS COMPLAINING AND ALL GOVERNORS ARE COMPLAINING THAT AFTER 9/11 THEY WENT THROUGH ALL THESE PLANNING SESSIONS AND THREAT ANALYSES. AND IN IOWA, THEY'VE COME UP WITH $48 MILLION WORTH OF THINGS THAT OUGHT TO BE DONE TO MAKE IOWA MORE SECURE, AND NOBODY HAS GOT ANY MONEY TO PAY FOR IT. SO IF WE DO IT, IT'S GOING TO CROWD OUT SPENDING FOR OTHER THINGS. AND ALL GOVERNORS ARE VERY FRUSTRATED RIGHT NOW WITH THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS FOR NOT PONYING UP SOME MONEY. WE'VE GOT $30 MILLION FOR TURKEY AND NOTHING FOR IOWA.

Henderson: AND ALSO THIS WEEK I TALKED WITH CONGRESSMAN TOM LATHAM, WHO SITS ON THE SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE THAT DEALS WITH HOMELAND SECURITY ISSUES. AND I SAID, "ARE YOU GOING TO SEND MORE MONEY TO THE STATES". AND HE SAID WE ARE GOING TO SEND MONEY TO THE STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO HELP THOSE FIRST RESPONDERS WHO, OF COURSE, WOULD BE THE FIRST FOLKS CALLED, 911, IF THERE IS A TERRORISM ATTACK, BUT HE SAID THERE IS A LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY. SO REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS ARE PREPARED TO GO ALONG WITH PRESIDENT BUSH AND NOT FORWARD AS MUCH MONEY TO THE STATES AND TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AS THEY MIGHT LIKE.

Borg: JENEANE, IS THERE A FEELING AMONG THOSE IN STATE GOVERNMENT AND THOSE AFFECTED BY APPROPRIATIONS THAT, BOY, WHEN IS THE SHOE GOING TO DROP? WE KNOW THAT WE'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE MUCH MONEY TO WORK WITH. IN FACT, SOME PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TAKE CUTS OR MAYBE LAYOFFS, BUT WE HAVEN'T HEARD ABOUT THEM.

Beck: WELL, I THINK THE SHOE WILL DROP LATER IN THE SESSION WHEN THEY TAKE UP THE SALARY BILL. WHAT WILL HAPPEN IS THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE HAS CALLED FOR A FAIRLY STATUS QUO BUDGET. THERE WILL BE REDUCTIONS BUT THE BIGGEST ISSUE WILL BE THAT SALARIES ARE GOING TO COST THIS MUCH MONEY AND THE LEGISLATURE IS ONLY GOING TO GIVE YOU ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS, MAYBE, OF THAT. SO DEPARTMENTS WILL HAVE TO MAKE CUTS OR LAY OFF WORKERS OR PUT IN FURLOUGHS TO MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE.

Borg: SO IT'S IMPORTANT TO SAY IT ISN'T THE LEGISLATURE THAT ACTUALLY LAYS OFF PEOPLE; THEY JUST DON'T APPROPRIATE ENOUGH MONEY TO THE DEPARTMENTS. IN THE DEPARTMENT THEY SAY YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT.

Beck: EXACTLY.

Yepsen: ONE OF THE, I THINK, UNFORTUNATE THINGS ABOUT THIS NEW COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT THAT THE GOVERNOR NEGOTIATED WITH THE UNIONS IS THAT THEY OPTED FOR LAYOFFS INSTEAD OF FURLOUGHS. HE THEN PRESENTS A BUDGET TO THE STATE -- TO THE LEGISLATURE, WHICH IS A STATUS QUO BUDGET. AND THE LEGISLATURE HAS SAID, "WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE AS BIG A DEFICIT AS YOU HAVE IN YOURS," SO THEY'VE PROPOSED A COUNTERBUDGET, WHICH WOULD TAKE IT DOWN TO ABOUT $100-MILLION DEFICIT. VILSACK IS AROUND 300. OKAY, NO MATTER WHOSE BUDGET GETS APPROVED, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE THE LAYOFF OF STATE WORKERS, AND THAT IS DONE BY SENIORITY. YOU DON'T DO FURLOUGHS WHERE EVERYBODY TAKES A FEW DAYS OFF. YOU'RE GOING TO DO LAYOFFS OF PEOPLE, SO IOWA IS GOING TO START LOSING ITS YOUNGEST WORKERS IN ITS WORK FORCE. I THINK THAT'S UNFORTUNATE FOR THE FUTURE.

Obradovich: THE OTHER INTERESTING THING THEY'RE DOING WITH THE BUDGET THIS YEAR IS THEY'RE WORKING WITH A CONSULTANT THAT THE GOVERNOR HIRED TO TRY AND FIND SAVINGS, A LOT OF IT THROUGH REORGANIZATION OF STATE AGENCIES. AND THEY'VE BEEN WORKING WITH THIS CONSULTANT, BUT NOBODY REALLY KNOWS -- AT THIS POINT WE HAVEN'T REALLY SEEN WHERE THOSE CUTS ARE GOING TO COME, AND THAT'S A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT. USUALLY WHEN THEY START WORKING THROUGH THE BUDGET BILLS, YOU START SEEING RIGHT AWAY, IN THOSE COMMITTEE MEETINGS, WHERE IT IS THAT THEY'RE GOING TO SAVE ALL THIS MONEY. REPUBLICANS SAID THEY WANTED TO SAVE ABOUT $50 MILLION MORE THAN THE GOVERNOR DID, SO WE'RE STILL WAITING TO FIND OUT WHERE THAT SAVINGS IS GOING TO BE.

Yepsen: THAT'S BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF POLITICALLY SENSITIVE STUFF THAT ARE IN THE RECOMMENDATIONS THAT THAT CONSULTANT HAS MADE. FOR EXAMPLE, WE DO AWAY WITH THE HOMESTEAD CREDIT, YOU GET AN INCOME TAX CREDIT INSTEAD. THAT'S A VERY CONTROVERSIAL SORT OF THING. THERE'S A LOT OF PAIN IN BUDGET CUTTING, AND I DON'T THINK THE POLITICIANS ARE INTERESTED IN US KNOWING ABOUT IT ANY SOONER THAN THEY HAVE TO TELL US.

Beck: AND THEY EVEN ADMIT THAT HE HAS TO RECOMMEND -- THIS CONSULTANT OR THIS GROUP HAS TO RECOMMEND AT LEAST SEVERAL HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF CUTS SO THAT THEY CAN APPROVE, SAY, $100 MILLION WORTH OF THEM BECAUSE THEY KNOW A GOOD SHARE OF THEM THEY WON'T WANT TO TOUCH BECAUSE THEY MAY BE TOO POLITICALLY HOT BUTTON.

Borg: DAVE, YOU TALKED ABOUT PAIN. I THOUGHT MAYBE I SAW SOME OF THAT PAIN THIS WEEK IN A STRONG STATEMENT FROM THE GOVERNOR, AND I THINK EVEN SOME LEGISLATIVE LEADERS WEIGHED IN ON IT. AND THERE WAS SOME CRITICISM, JENEANE, OF THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY FOR NOT COOPERATING IN WORKING OUT SOME SORT OF A COMPROMISE IN TAXES. WHAT'S THE SITUATION THERE?

Beck: WELL, AS YOU KNOW, THE RACETRACKS ARE PAYING A LOWER TAX BECAUSE OF THE COURT RULING, AND THEY ARE NOW PAYING 20 PERCENT TAXES INSTEAD OF WHERE THEY WERE AT, 32 PERCENT. AND THERE'S A SHORTFALL IN REVENUE, AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS ARE MAINLY THE PROGRAMS TAKING THE HIT BECAUSE OF THAT. AND THE GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATIVE LEADERS HAVE SAID COME TO THE TABLE AND LET'S FIX THIS. IT'S IN COURT RIGHT NOW AND I THINK THE GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATURE FEEL EMBOLDENED THAT THE SUPREME COURT -- THE U.S. SUPREME COURT WILL RULE IN THEIR FAVOR, SO THEY WANT THE TRACKS TO COME TO THE TABLE AND OFFER UP SOME MORE -- SOME MORE TAX REVENUE TO SETTLE THIS BEFORE THE COURT RULING.

Borg: ENLIGHTEN ME, THOUGH, AS TO WHY IS IT IN THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY'S INTEREST NOT TO HAVE BEEN COOPERATIVE SO FAR, AT LEAST IN THE VIEW OF GOVERNOR VILSACK.

Beck: THEY'RE PAYING A LOT LESS IN TAXES RIGHT NOW, AND THEY ENJOY THAT.

Borg: IF THEY'RE GOING TO LOSE IN THE LONG RUN, WHY NOT CRAFT SOMETHING RIGHT NOW?

Beck: WELL, THEY WANT TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF A HAND IN THIS TOO. THEY WOULDN'T MIND -- THE RACETRACKS WOULDN'T MIND TABLE GAMES, OR THEY'D LIKE DIFFERENT TAX RATES ON THE PURSES THEY PAY OR ON HOW, YOU KNOW, A TAX RATE THAT GOES UP. IF THEY MAKE MORE, THEY PAY MORE TAXES; BUT IF THEY HAVE AN OFF-YEAR, THEY PAY LESS TAXES.

Yepsen: DEAN, WHENEVER AN INTEREST GROUP, IN THIS CASE THE CASINOS, GET CROSSWAYS WITH THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATIVE LEADERS, THAT INTEREST GROUP IS IN TROUBLE AND THEY'RE GOING TO GET ROLLED. AND THE REASON IS EXACTLY WHAT JENEANE SAID: THE STATE NEEDS MORE MONEY, THEY DON'T WANT TO GO OUT AND RAISE MAJOR TAXES, BUT THEY'LL RAISE THE GAMBLING TAX. ONE OF THE EFFECTS OF THE LAST ELECTION WAS TO REALLY DIMINISH THE STRENGTH OF THE ANTIGAMBLING MOVEMENT IN THE LEGISLATURE. IOWANS SEEM TO HAVE ACCEPTED GAMBLING. THEY VOTED FOR IT IN A REFERENDA. THEY'VE ELECTED MEMBERS TO THE LEGISLATURE WHO SUPPORT GAMBLING, AND MOST STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ARE NOW HOOKED ON GAMBLING. SO WE'RE GOING TO SEE AN EXPANSION IN GAMBLING IN THIS STATE.

Obradovich: AND I THINK THAT, REALLY, IT'S SORT OF A PUBLIC NEGOTIATING POSITION THAT THE CASINOS AREN'T BEING COOPERATIVE. IN FACT, THEY ARE COMING TO THE TABLE. THEY ARE TALKING TO LEGISLATIVE LEADERS. THEY'RE TESTING THE LIMITS. I MEAN LEGISLATIVE LEADERS AND THE GOVERNOR HAVE SAID WE WANT TO DEAL WITH THE TAX ISSUE AND THE TAX ISSUE ALONE, BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE A GAMBLING DEBATE ON ALL THESE OTHER ISSUES, LIKE JENEANE MENTIONED. BUT CASINOS, IT'S IN THEIR INTEREST TO FIND OUT WHETHER THAT'S REALLY THE CASE AND WHETHER THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO SLIP IN A FEW THINGS LIKE CAPPING PURSES THAT THEY HAVE TO PAY TO WINNERS IN THE RACES AND THAT KIND OF THING. THEY'RE GOING TO BE BACK AT THE STATEHOUSE THIS WEEK TALKING TO LEGISLATORS ABOUT THOSE ISSUES --

Henderson: AND I KNOW THIS MAY BE A STRANGE CONCEPT, BUT PEOPLE SAY DIFFERENT THINGS IN PUBLIC THAN THEY MIGHT SAY IN PRIVATE.

Yepsen: NO!

Henderson: YEAH. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: I'M IN SHOCK AND AWE.

Borg: ESPECIALLY AT THE LEGISLATURE.

Yepsen: WELL, DEAN, IT'S NEVER AN OFFICIAL SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE UNLESS YOU HAVE A GAMBLING DEBATE, AND I'LL GUARANTEE IT WILL HAPPEN AFTER THE SUN GOES DOWN. PROBABLY ON THE LAST NIGHT OF THE SESSION, DEAN.

Borg: YOU SAID EXPECT EXPANDED GAMBLING. WHAT?

Yepsen: WELL, I JUST THINK PART OF IT -- TABLE GAMES. PART OF THE DEAL HERE IS THAT IN RETURN FOR PAYING HIGHER TAXES, THESE CASINOS ARE GOING TO HAVE EXPANDED EITHER TYPES OF GAMES OR NUMBERS OF CASINOS. YOU COULD SEE ONE ON LAKE OKOBOJI. YOU COULD SEE ONE PUT OVER ON LAKE CORALVILLE. MAKE THE NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE IN TAMA PAY TO KEEP IT OFF -- FROM GOING INTO OPERATION. THERE ARE A LOT OF WAYS THE STATE CAN RAISE MORE MONEY OUT OF THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY.

Borg: IN FACT, THERE'S A STRONG INDICATION THAT CEDAR RAPIDS MAY VOTE THIS FALL ON GAMBLING IN CEDAR RAPIDS, AND I SUPPOSE THAT DEPENDS ON WHAT HAPPENS IN THE LEGISLATURE AUTHORIZING SUCH A THING.

Yepsen: THAT'S RIGHT.

Borg: KAY, THE STATE NEEDS MONEY. WE'VE JUST ACKNOWLEDGED THAT, TRYING TO GET SOME MORE THROUGH GAMBLING, BUT ALSO IN TAXES. NOW, I HEAR TIME AFTER TIME AFTER TIME BOTH DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS SAY, NO, WE'RE NOT GOING TO RAISE TAXES. AND YET, THE NEXT THING I TURN AROUND AND I SEE WE'RE RAISING A TAX HERE AND RAISING A TAX HERE, BUT IT'S ON CIGARETTES AND MAYBE SOME THINGS IN INCOME TAX THAT WOULD DO AWAY WITH FEDERAL DEDUCTIBILITY.

Henderson: RIGHT.

Borg: SO SOMEBODY PAYS MORE TAXES.

Henderson: WELL, REPUBLICANS WHO CRAFTED THE PACKAGE WHICH WOULD SET ESSENTIALLY A FLAT TAX RATE, VERY SIMPLE, MAYBE EVEN A POSTCARD RETURN FOR YOUR STATE INCOME TAXES, THEY COUPLE THAT WITH A HALF A PENNY IN A SALES TAX HIKE AND A 36-CENT-PER-PACK INCREASE IN THE CIGARETTE TAX. REPUBLICANS WHO CRAFTED THAT WILL ARGUE THAT IT'S A NET TAX DECREASE OF $250 MILLION FOR IOWANS. AND SO EVEN THOUGH SOME CERTAIN TAXES GO UP, THE OVERALL TAX BURDEN, THEY WILL ARGUE, GOES DOWN. GOVERNOR VILSACK HAS INDICATED THAT HE WANTS TO RETAIN SOME OF WHAT HE TERMS THE PROGRESSIVITY OF THE CURRENT SYSTEM, WHICH HAS DIFFERENT RATES FOR DIFFERENT WAGE EARNERS. AND SO IT'S NOT CLEAR THAT THAT FLAT TAX IS GOING TO HAPPEN. WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN IS THAT IOWANS' ABILITIES TO DEDUCT THEIR FEDERAL TAX BILL FROM THEIR STATE TAX LIABILITY -- AND WE ALL CALL THAT FEDERAL DEDUCTIBILITY -- IT MAKES IOWA'S INCOME TAX RATES APPEAR MUCH HIGHER WHEN COMPARED TO OTHER STATES, AND SO I THINK THAT IS GOING TO BE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK. THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS FOR CERTAIN THAT THEY'LL DO THIS YEAR.

Yepsen: ONE PROBLEM REPUBLICANS HAVE HAD IS THAT A VERY INFLUENTIAL INTEREST GROUPS, IOWANS FOR TAX RELIEF, HAS STAUNCHLY DEFENDED FEDERAL DEDUCTIBILITY. SO THE ONLY WAY YOU GET AROUND THAT GROUP IS TO GO TO A FLAT TAX, WHICH IS A MUCH LOWER, AS KAY MENTIONED -- FOR MOST TAXPAYERS, YOUR STATE INCOME TAX WILL BE LOWER. OBVIOUSLY YOU'RE SHIFTING THE BURDEN TO SALES TAXPAYERS AND SHIFTING IT TO CIGARETTE SMOKERS. WHERE THE PROGRESSIVITY IN THIS COMES IN IS THAT THE REPUBLICANS WOULD SIMPLY LOP OFF MANY LOWER INCOME TAXPAYERS FROM PAYING ANY INCOME TAX AT ALL. SO THE QUESTION IS, IS THAT GOING TO BE ENOUGH PROGRESSIVITY TO ENABLE TOM VILSACK TO SIGN IT. DEAN, IT'S A DELICATE POLITICAL THING. IF THEY'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING ON TAXES, I THINK IT'S GOING TO HAVE TO HAPPEN THIS SESSION. THEY'RE VERY CLOSE. I THINK THE GOVERNOR IS SIGNALING HE MAY IN FACT TAKE THIS KIND OF THING IF THE REPUBLICANS CAN MAKE IT AS PROGRESSIVE AS THEY CAN.

Obradovich: WELL, WHAT YOU SAID, DEAN, IS WILL SOMEBODY PAY HIGHER TAXES. AND IN THE PLAN THAT KAY'S TALKING ABOUT, THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THAT BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THIS STATE WHO ARE NOT CURRENTLY PAYING INCOME TAX. THEY MAKE SO LITTLE THAT THEY'RE NOT PAYING INCOME TAX. AND THEREFORE, WHEN YOU SHIFT TO OTHER TAXES, WHEN YOU RAISE THE SALES TAX A HALF PENNY, ET CETERA, THEY ARE THE ONES WHO WILL BE AFFECTED BY THAT. AND IT DOES BECOME A POLITICAL ISSUE BECAUSE REPUBLICANS SAY WE'RE NOT GOING TO RAISE TAXES, AND SO YOU TALK ABOUT SHIFTING. BUT SOME PEOPLE WILL PAY HIGHER TAXES.

Yepsen: THE SALES TAX, THOUGH, DEAN, IS ONE IOWANS DON'T MIND PAYING. ANY POLL WILL SHOW YOU THE LEAST OBJECTIONABLE TAX IS THE SALES TAX. MOST COUNTIES ARE ALREADY VOTING TO RAISE SALES TAXES TO PAY FOR LOCAL SCHOOLS OR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. AND SINCE IOWA DOES NOT TAX FOOD WITH THE SALES TAX OR DRUGS, AND NOW WE'RE TAKING IT OFF UTILITY BILLS, THE SALES TAX STARTS TO GET A BIT MORE PROGRESSIVE WHEN YOU DON'T TAX THOSE NECESSITIES OF LIFE.

Beck: BUT THEY WOULD PUT THAT SALES TAX BACK ON UTILITIES. THEY WOULDN'T REPEAL IT ENTIRELY UNDER THAT PLAN OF THE FLAT TAX THAT LARRY MCKIBBEN HAS PROPOSED. SO THERE WILL BE -- THERE ARE DEMOCRATS THAT ARE ARGUING THIS PLAN IS HARSH ON LOWER INCOME IOWANS BECAUSE THEY SAY THE SALES TAX IS NOT A PROGRESSIVE TAX AND IT HURTS THE LOW INCOME.

Yepsen: WELL, WHAT DOES TOM VILSACK SAY?

Beck: HE HASN'T WEIGHED IN YET.

Yepsen: THE DEMOCRATS IN THE LEGISLATURE DON'T REALLY COUNT IN THIS. IT'S GOING TO BE THE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY THAT DECIDES WHAT KIND OF BILL THEY CAN PUT TOGETHER TO GET A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR TO SIGN IT. I THINK THE FACT THAT GOVERNOR VILSACK IS BEING VERY MODERATE AND HANGING LOOSE ON THIS THING SENDS A REAL SIGNAL THAT HE'S CAPABLE OF MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION.

Obradovich: EVEN AMONG REPUBLICANS, THE NO TAX INCREASE, YOU KNOW, READ-MY-LIPS THING IS REALLY SOFTENING UP A LOT BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF FEE INCREASES THAT ARE MOVING THROUGH THE LEGISLATURE RIGHT NOW, INCLUDING ON DRIVERS LICENSES AND FISHING LICENSES. THEY'RE RAISING A LOT OF FEES. AND IN THE PAST A LOT OF THE REPUBLICANS WHO ARE CONTROLLING THOSE BUDGET COMMITTEES ARE SAYING A FEE INCREASE IS THE SAME THING AS A TAX INCREASE. IN PREVIOUS YEARS WE WOULDN'T HAVE SEEN ALL THESE BILLS --

Yepsen: BUT THERE'S A THRESHOLD. I MEAN THERE'S A LOT OF PAIN IN CUTTING THESE BUDGETS. AND WHEN THE PAIN OF THAT GETS WORSE THAN THE PAIN OF RAISING TAXES, THE GAME SHIFTS. THERE'S A DIFFERENCE TOO IN THE FEE. THE FEE IS PAID BY PEOPLE WHO USE THAT SERVICE; WHEREAS, A TAX IS JUST ASSESSED AGAINST EVERYBODY.

Borg: A WAY OF GETTING MORE MONEY INTO THE STATE TREASURY, ALSO, IS TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY, JENEANE. GOVERNOR VILSACK, IN HIS CONDITION OF THE STATE, PROPOSED A MASSIVE BONDING CAPABILITY THAT WOULD SPUR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN RURAL IOWA. IS THAT GOING TO HAPPEN?

Beck: I THINK SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN. BOTH REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS, THE GOVERNOR, EVERYONE SEEMS TO AGREE THAT THEY WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND THAT THEY WANT TO CREATE A LARGE POT OF MONEY, WHETHER IT BE $500 MILLION TO $2 BILLION -- THEY DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH YET -- A LARGE PART OF MONEY WHERE THEY CAN SPUR REGIONAL GRANTS OR SOME SORT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN A COUPLE OF KEY AREAS LIKE BIOTECHNOLOGY AND ADVANCED MANUFACTURING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, COMPUTERS, THAT SORT OF THING. THE PROBLEM IS THEY DON'T KNOW HOW THEY WANT TO GET THAT MONEY, AND BONDING IS ONE OPTION OR A PAY AS YOU GO. AND I DON'T THINK THEY HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY AS YOU GO. BUT THERE ARE GROUPS OUT THERE THAT SAY IOWA SHOULDN'T BOND FOR THIS, THAT THESE ARE RISKY BUSINESS VENTURES, AND THAT WE'RE PUTTING TAXPAYERS ON THE LINE IN THE FUTURE BY BONDING FOR THEM.

Henderson: YEAH, WHEN LAST WE TALKED ABOUT THIS, WE HAVE A NEW DEVELOPMENT FROM THAT TIME. IOWANS FOR TAX RELIEF, THE GROUP THAT DAVID MENTIONED A FEW MINUTES AGO, HAS SPENT SIX FIGURES ON AN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN ON TELEVISION AND RADIO STATIONS THROUGHOUT THE STATE TO COME OUT AGAINST THIS PLAN. IT'S A LITTLE -- IT'S TOO LITTLE TOO LATE BECAUSE THE MINDS HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE UP UP THERE. THEY'RE ENAMORED WITH THIS IDEA AND THEY'RE GOING TO DO IT. ANOTHER REASON I THINK IOWANS FOR TAX RELIEF MAY BE PICKING THIS FIGHT IS BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING TO LOSE ON THE FEDERAL DEDUCTIBILITY ISSUE THAT THEY HAVE LONG FOUGHT UP AT THE STATEHOUSE, AND SO THEY'RE PICKING A NEW HORSE TO PICK AT LEGISLATORS ABOUT.

Yepsen: IT'S A BIG CHANGE, DEAN. I MEAN WE'VE BEEN A PAY-AS-YOU-GO STATE FOR MOST OF OUR HISTORY. IOWA HAS SOME OF THE LOWEST PER CAPITA LEVELS OF PUBLIC DEBT OF ANY STATE IN THE COUNTRY. AND YET IT WAS SIGNIFICANT THAT THE FARM BUREAU COMES FORWARD TO SAY, "WE WANT TO BORROW A BIG CHUNK OF MONEY." WELL, WHAT DO FARMERS DO? THEY BORROW A LOT OF MONEY IN THEIR BUSINESS. AND THE FACT IS PAY AS YOU GO MEANS WE HAVEN'T GONE. OTHER STATES HAVE BORROWED MONEY. THEY HAVE BUILT INFRASTRUCTURE. THEY HAVE DONE THINGS WITH THAT MONEY THAT HAVE MADE THOSE STATES BETTER PLACES TO LIVE. I THINK IOWANS ARE FINALLY FIGURING OUT THAT, GEE, WE BORROW MONEY FOR OUR BUSINESSES, WE BORROW IT FOR OUR HOMES -- TO BUY HOMES, IT MIGHT BE OKAY TO BORROW A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY -- TWO BILLION IS A LOT, BUT RELATIVELY IT ISN'T -- AND WE START GETTING SOME -- SPARK SOME GROWTH IN OUR STATE'S ECONOMY.

Obradovich: PART OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCE HERE TOO IS WHAT DO YOU BOND FOR. RIGHT NOW INTEREST RATES ARE REALLY LOW. IT MAY BE A GOOD TIME TO GO AHEAD AND BORROW SOME MONEY, BUT THERE ARE SOME GROUPS THAT SAY THAT THE STATE SHOULD BORROW ONLY FOR PHYSICAL ASSETS, ONLY FOR TANGIBLE THINGS TO BUILD BUILDINGS, SORT OF LIKE THE VISION IOWA BOARD DID WITH THAT BONDING PROGRAM, INSTEAD OF BORROWING MONEY THAT MIGHT ULTIMATELY GO INTO, YOU KNOW, ONGOING GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS, WHICH THEN YOU'LL HAVE TO PAY FOR LATER AS WELL WITHOUT HAVING ANY ASSETS.

Beck: AND IT ALL COMES FULL CIRCLE. IT MAKES THEM WANT TO GET THIS GAMBLING ISSUE SETTLED REALLY QUICKLY BECAUSE THAT MIGHT BE THE MONEY THEY USE TO PAY BACK THESE BONDS, AND SO THEY WANT TO KNOW HOW MUCH THEY'LL BE GETTING IN TAXES OVER THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS TO PAY BACK THIS BORROWED DEBT.

Henderson: I'M LOOKING AT A LITTLE BIT BIGGER PICTURE. ONE OF THE REASONS GOVERNOR VILSACK THREW THIS IDEA ON THE TABLE WAS BECAUSE HE THOUGHT AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM THAT WAS FASHIONED MUCH THE SAME WAY THIS VISION IOWA PROGRAM, WHEREBY THE STATE GAVE GRANTS TO COMMUNITIES FOR COMMUNITY PROJECTS -- THE VISION IOWA PROGRAM REALLY GENERATED A LOT OF THINKING AMONG COMMUNITY LEADERS: WHAT DO WE NEED IN OUR COMMUNITY TO MAKE IT A LITTLE BIT MORE VIBRANT. BY THROWING OUT THIS IDEA OF THE STATE INVESTING IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS, YOU HAVE FOLKS LIKE THE LEAGUE OF CITIES AND THE SEVENTEEN LARGEST CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE, YOU HAVE THE FARM BUREAU, YOU HAVE INNUMEROUS GROUPS OUT THERE NOW THINKING WHAT ARE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPARK THE ECONOMY. AND I THINK THAT'S A HEALTHY THING TO HAVE PEOPLE THINKING IN THE STATE, ABOUT MECHANISMS WHEREBY YOU USE GOVERNMENT AT ALL LEVELS TO TRY TO SPARK ECONOMIC GROWTH.

Yepsen: THERE IS A RECOGNITION THAT WE'VE GOT TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY, AND YOU'RE SEEING IT IN TAX POLICY AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS BONDING. I MEAN EVERYBODY IS CHANGING THEIR POSITIONS A LITTLE BIT. I THINK IT'S A HEALTHY THING.

Borg: ARE THERE SOME WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THIS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL THE WAY THAT IT STANDS RIGHT NOW?

Yepsen: IT'S TOO EARLY TO SAY THAT, DEAN. THERE MAY BE SOME POLITICAL WINNERS AND LOSERS ONCE IT ALL SORTS OUT, BUT MY VIEW IS THAT WE'VE GOT TO GET THINGS GOING IN IOWA. OUR POLICYMAKERS ARE FINALLY DOING SOME THINGS DIFFERENTLY. THEY'RE TRYING TO COOPERATE IN GETTING IT DONE. AND UNDER THAT SCENARIO, WE COULD ALL WIND UP --

Obradovich: I THINK THE ONE GROUP THAT DOES STAND TO LOSE SOMETHING ARE THE CITIES. THEY HAVE A ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL RIGHT NOW THAT THEY LIKE. IT'S CALLED TAX INCREMENT FINANCING --

Yepsen: "TIF."

Obradovich: OR "TIF." AND THEY BASICALLY ARE NOT GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS DEBATE WITHOUT AT LEAST TIGHTENING UP THE RULES SO THAT THEY CAN'T USE THAT TOOL FOR ANYTHING THAT THEY WANT. I THINK THAT THEY -- WHETHER THEY GO WITH A FARM BUREAU PLAN TO TOTALLY DO AWAY WITH THAT TOOL OR NOT, THEY ARE GOING TO LOSE SOME OF THE FLEXIBILITY WITH THAT.

Borg: LAST WEEK OUT HERE, JENEANE, WE TALKED ABOUT A BUNDLE OF SOME 28 ISSUES, I'LL SAY, THAT ARE BOUND UP IN WHAT'S CALLED REGULATORY REFORM. DICK MYERS, THE MINORITY LEADER IN THE HOUSE, WAS OBJECTING TO THAT PRETTY VEHEMENTLY. WHAT'S THAT ALL ABOUT AND IS IT GOING TO GO ANYWHERE?

Beck: THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME SENTIMENT THAT THIS IS A HUGE PACKAGE SO THAT THE REPUBLICANS INTEND TO PASS IT DOWN TO THE GOVERNOR AND HE INTENDS TO VETO IT, BECAUSE IT HAS THINGS IN THERE LIKE CAPPING ON MEDICAL MALPRACTICE, CAPPING THE PAYMENTS FOR THAT. IT LIMITS SOME UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR HOW LONG YOU CAN GET THOSE. IT LIMITS WORKERS' COMPENSATION BENEFITS IF YOU HAVE A SECOND INJURY ON THE JOB. AND SOME OF THESE THINGS THE GOVERNOR HAS VETOED BEFORE. SO BY PACKAGING THEM ALL TOGETHER, DEMOCRATS SAY REPUBLICANS HAVE ASSURED THEMSELVES THAT THE GOVERNOR WILL VETO IT.

Borg: SO WHY ARE THEY GOING TO DO IT, THEN?

Beck: WELL, BECAUSE THE REPUBLICANS WANT TO LOOK LIKE THEY'RE DOING THINGS FOR THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, AND THEY SAY THESE ARE THINGS THAT WOULD ATTRACT NEW BUSINESSES TO IOWA.

Yepsen: AND I ALSO THINK WE'RE SETTING THE STAGE FOR A DEBATE SEVERAL YEARS DOWN THE ROAD WHEN TOM VILSACK IS NOT GOVERNOR. REPUBLICANS -- THE GESTATION PERIOD FOR ANY IDEA IN THE LEGISLATURE IS USUALLY A COUPLE YEARS. SO IF YOU'RE A REPUBLICAN, YOU WANT TO GET THESE ISSUES ON THE TABLE AND START TALKING ABOUT THEM, SURE, HE'S GOING TO VETO THEM. IT'S A POLITICAL THING. YOU HAVE TO KEEP -- EVERYBODY HAS TO KEEP THEIR INTEREST GROUPS HAPPY. BUT DOWN THE ROAD, IF THE REPUBLICANS TAKE THE GOVERNORSHIP, THE LEGISLATURE, THESE ARE THE KINDS OF THINGS YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THEM PASS AND PUT INTO LAW.

Borg: WHAT'S THE CLIMATE UP THERE NOW, AS YOU DISCERN, BETWEEN THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, GOVERNOR VILSACK, AND THE LEGISLATURE? IT HAD BEEN HARSH IN PAST YEARS.

Beck: ON THAT BILL ALONE YOU'LL SEE THE DIFFERENT STATEHOUSE DEMOCRATS, WHOM WE'VE TALKED ABOUT NOT HAVING ANY POWER, ARE JUST OUT THERE, YOU KNOW, BEATING THE HORSE WITH THIS ISSUE. BUT THE GOVERNOR SORT OF CALMING AND RELUCTANTLY SAID, WELL, I DON'T THINK IT HAS MUCH FUTURE. BUT HE DID NOT TRASH REPUBLICANS FOR PROPOSING IT, AND HE HASN'T COME OUT AGAINST THEM ON THEIR TAX ISSUES EITHER AND THINGS THAT HE MIGHT HAVE OPPOSED IN THE PAST. HE'S REALLY TRYING TO STAY BACK AND WAIT TILL THEY HAVE A COUPLE OF REALLY SOLID AGREEMENTS ON THE TABLE BEFORE HE CRITICIZES THEM.

Borg: WHAT'S THE IDEA THERE -- I'M SORRY TO TALK OVER YOU. BUT IS THE IDEA THERE PICK FIGHTS ON SIGNIFICANT ISSUES?

Yepsen: I THINK SO BUT I THINK IT'S NOT PICK FIGHTS, I THINK IT'S TRY TO WORK SOMETHING OUT. I MEAN THE REPUBLICANS PUTTING AN IDEA ON THE TABLE LIKE THIS TAX THING. VILSACK DOESN'T DRILL IT FULL OF HOLES THE WAY HE WOULD HAVE IN THE FIRST TERM. NOW HE SAYS, ALL RIGHT, LET'S TAKE A LOOK, LET'S WORK TOGETHER, LET'S TALK, LET'S TRY TO REACH SOME ACCOMMODATION HERE.

Henderson: YOU KNOW, THERE APPEARS TO BE A NEW WORLD ORDER UP AT THE STATEHOUSE. AND ONE FUNCTION OF IT IS THAT TOM VILSACK WANTS TO HAVE SOME SORT OF A LEGACY, AND IT'S ALSO THE FUNCTION OF THE FACT THAT HE TOLD IOWANS HE WASN'T GOING TO SEEK ANOTHER TERM. SO FOR HIM TO BE RELEVANT, FOR HIM TO CONTINUE TO BE A DECISION MAKER RATHER THAN JUST A NONENTITY OF THE STATEHOUSE, HE HAS TO TAKE A DIFFERENT TACT WITH LEGISLATORS AND I THINK HE'S CHOSEN A SUCCESSFUL ONE.

Obradovich: IT'S HARD TO TELL AT THIS POINT EXACTLY HOW TIED TOGETHER SOME OF THESE ISSUES ARE. WE HAVE STEW IVERSON IN THE SENATE SAYING, "YEAH, THIS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND IS GREAT, BUT WE ALSO HAVE TO HAVE TAX REFORM AND WE HAVE TO HAVE REGULATORY REFORM." SO AT LEAST, IN HIS MIND, THOSE ISSUES ARE TIED TOGETHER. AND IT MAY NOT SERVE THE GOVERNOR IF HE WANTS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND TO COME OUT RIGHT AWAY AND SAY HE'S GOING TO VETO REGULATORY REFORM.

Borg: SO LOOKING AT THE OVERALL PICTURE, THIS IS NOT ONE TO IMMEDIATELY TRASH IS WHAT YOU'RE SAYING. DOES THAT ALSO MEAN, KAY, THAT -- THE GOVERNOR THIS PAST WEEK AND IN THE LAST FEW DAYS HAS APPOINTED SEVERAL PEOPLE TO STATE OFFICES. SOMETIME IN THE PAST SOME OF THOSE HAVE RUN INTO CONFIRMATION PROBLEMS. IS THE HARMONY UP THERE MEAN THAT THESE CONFIRMATIONS ARE LIKELY TO SAIL THROUGH?

Henderson: WELL, THE FOLKS THAT HE JUST UNVEILED TO THE PUBLIC THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS ARE GOING TO SAIL THROUGH. ONE INTERESTING THING AS I LOOK AT THE PEOPLE THAT HE'S CHOSEN TO LEAD AGENCIES, SUCH AS THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, IS THAT THESE ARE FOLKS WHO ARE IN THE TWILIGHT OF THEIR CAREERS. THEY'RE IN THEIR SIXTIES, THEIR EARLY SIXTIES, AND THIS IS THE LAST STOP ON THE TRAIL. I THINK ONE OF THE FUNCTIONS OF VILSACK BEING A LAME DUCK, IF YOU WILL, IS THAT IT'S HARD FOR HIM TO ATTRACT YOUNGER TALENT TO THOSE TOP DIRECTOR POSTS, BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT AT THE END OF THE TRAIN, AT THE END OF FOUR YEARS, THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER JOB. IN REGARDS TO HIS APPOINTMENTS, THE ONE APPOINTMENT THAT APPEARS TO BE IN TROUBLE IN THE SENATE IS JOHN CACCIATORE,. HE WAS GOVERNOR VILSACK'S CHIEF OF STAFF. IN A PREVIOUS LIFE HE HAD WORKED IN THE IOWA SENATE. NOW THE IOWA SENATE HAS TO VOTE ON WHETHER HE GETS TO TAKE A JOB IN WASHINGTON, D.C., REPRESENTING THE GOVERNOR BEFORE CONGRESS. IT APPEARS THAT IS IN TROUBLE BECAUSE HE HAD A VERY CAUSTIC WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH LEGISLATORS OF THE REPUBLICAN -- OF THE REPUBLICAN GENDER.

Yepsen: AND I THINK -- I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH VILSACK HIRING MATURE DEPARTMENT HEADS. THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE SEASONED. THEY KNOW HOW TO RUN AGENCIES. THEY KNOW HOW TO KEEP THE LID ON STUFF. THEY KNOW HOW TO KEEP CONTROVERSY FROM BOILING OVER. THEY KNOW HOW TO RUN THINGS. AND, YOU KNOW, TOM VILSACK NEEDS A LITTLE SMOOTHNESS AND HARMONY TO ACCOMPLISH SOME OTHER THINGS. HE DOESN'T NEED ANY MORE CONTROVERSIES OUT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES.

Borg: ON THAT POSITIVE NOTE, DAVE, WE HAVE TO CLOSE. THANKS FOR YOUR INSIGHTS. AS INDICATED EARLIER, PRESSING CONGRESSIONAL BUSINESS PREVENTED SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY FROM BEING WITH US TODAY, BUT WE DO EXPECT THAT HE'S GOING TO BE OUR GUEST NEXT WEEKEND, AIRTIME 6:30 FRIDAY, REBROADCAST SUNDAY AT NOON. THAT'S THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

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