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Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 27 February 2009 15:07

Panelists at IowaPolitics.com Forum: Keep Education a Priority; Avoide Taxes

Education should remain Iowa’s top priority, and tax increases should be avoided during this time of economic uncertainty and budget cutbacks, representatives from two Iowa special-interest groups and the state auditor said an IowaPolitics.com forum Thursday afternoon.

Brad Hudson from the Iowa State Education Association and Ed Failor Jr. from Iowans for Tax Relief joined state Auditor David Vaudt at the forum held in Drake University’s Levitt Hall.

While the three men represented different interests and occasionally clashed on political and economic ideology, they found common ground that education should be a government spending priority and that now is not the time to raise taxes.

I don’t think this is the time to be raising taxes -- I don’t think we need to,” Hudson said. “I think we have the resources, and we can set the priorities such that that’s not necessary.”

Vaudt said a recession would be the worst time to raise taxes and would only put more burden on individuals who are already strapped for cash. Failor worried that increased taxes would discourage spending and investing, which are vital to jump-starting the economy.

The panelists -- liberal and conservative alike -- also agreed that public education should remain Iowa’s top priority and continue to receive the lion’s share of money in the state budget. When asked what should escape the 6.5-percent budget cut to most state agencies and programs proposed by Culver, there was consensus that more, not less, should be spent on Iowa’s public schools.

Education, quite frankly, is the first thing that needs to be the priority of the government,” Failor said. “Beyond that, I wouldn’t stop looking at anything [to be considered for budget cuts].”

At a time when the state faces a $779-million budget gap, legislators are looking for ways to cut spending and increase revenue. All three men warned that “one-time money” on its way to Iowa as part of the federal economic-stimulus package should be used wisely and not depended on in the future.

The forum, produced with partners Drake University and Mediacom, is scheduled to be televised on the Mediacom Connections Channel (channel 22 in most areas of Iowa) at the following times: 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 4; 11 a.m. Sunday, March 8; 2 p.m. Monday, March 9; and 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 11.

It will also be available through Mediacom’s “On Demand" service after March 6.