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Iowa Politics Roundup: State-Revenue Estimate Boosted by $300 Million PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 15 October 2010 12:56

All three members of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference said they are “cautiously optimistic” about the economy as they voted to increase the estimate of Iowa’s state revenues this fiscal year by nearly $300 million since their last estimate in March.

The new projection for Fiscal Year 2011 is $5.76 billion, a 2.2-percent increase over last year. The panel also made its first revenue estimate for fiscal year 2012 of $5.95 billion, which would be a 3.3-percent increase over the projection for the current year.

“There are still concerns about unemployment levels,” said state budget director Dick Oshlo, one of the three members of the conference. “Coming out of a recession, these are positive numbers, and we are heading in the right direction.”

State Representative Scott Raecker (R-Urbandale), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the improved revenue estimates will narrow but not eliminate the projected $1-billion budget gap in Fiscal Year 2012. He argued that the current budget is still balanced on the backs of property taxpayers and one-time money. He also said the latest estimates don’t take into account the impact of proposed changes in federal tax cuts, which he said could cause Iowa to take a $200-million hit.

The official revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2012, which the governor and lawmakers must abide by when they return in January to craft the state budget, will be made by the Revenue Estimating Conference in December.

At Boswell Fundraiser, Biden Predicts Democratic Control of Congress

Vice President Joe Biden declared in Des Moines that “reports of the death of the Democratic Party have been greatly exaggerated,” touted efforts by the Obama administration to turn around the economy, and said Democrats didn’t count on millions of dollars coming in for Republicans in the last month of the campaign from “secret sources.”

“On November 3, the day after the election, the Democrats are going to control the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate,” Biden said in a 42-minute speech at an October 12 fundraiser for U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines). The event was attended by about 200 people with a minimum ticket price of $150.

Biden said the president is “breaking his neck” to help create jobs and help small businesses, claiming that Republicans have done nothing but vote against tax plans by Democrats. He also said the administration is seeking to build a new green-energy sector.

The vice president said Karl Rove’s “secret millionaire group” is raising money to battle Democrats, and he noted that an Iowan helped to start the American Future Fund to do the same. He also challenged the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to prove that it is not using foreign money to spend on American elections, and he said that by obtaining foreign money for Chamber operations, it frees up other money to spend on political campaigns.

“I don’t have anything against Karl Rove personally,” Biden said. But he contended that Rove and his friends were “architects of the policy that drove us into this hole.”

Biden urged Democrats to get their base out and to compare their party to the Republican alternative. “We have worked too hard, folks, to walk away from this,” he said. “We have to buck up. This election is more important than the one where you elected us. We have finally turned this supertanker around, and it is headed home to port.”

Vilsack Predicts 2010 Democratic Success

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack this week came to Des Moines and touted his own history as something that current Democratic Governor Chet Culver can replicate.

“I remember in 1998, I was 23 points behind at this point in time in the election,” Vilsack said in an interview in Des Moines. “But we got engaged, we got excited, we got passionate. We went to the polls in record numbers, and we won that race. I see the same kind of thing happening here in November of 2010.”

Vilsack became Iowa’s first Democratic governor in 30 years when he won that 1998 election, in an upset win over former Republican U.S. Representative Jim Ross Lightfoot. Vilsack, who said his campaign had no money but had volunteers getting the message out to voters, took over state government after 16 years under former Governor Terry Branstad, who is seeking the office again this year.

Both Culver and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin, who have trailed their Republican opponents by double digits in most polls this year, have publicly compared their situations to Vilsack’s. The former governor furthered that notion and worked to energize the Democratic base this week during a visit to Iowa.

“Polls are designed to encourage people to sit at home and not fight back,” Vilsack said. “I think it’s important for Democrats to recognize that they can’t stay off the field here, they can’t sit on their hands, they can’t assume that things are over.”

Vilsack, who himself dealt with several rounds of state budget cuts during his eight years as governor, this week said Culver has managed the state well during tough times. That praise came despite some public clashes that Vilsack had with Culver when he was governor and Culver was secretary of state.

Vilsack, who’s currently the U.S. secretary of agriculture, was in Des Moines this week for the World Food Prize. He also took part in one of Organizing for America’s house parties Tuesday night in Des Moines, during which President Obama spoke to supporters via live webcast.