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July 23rd, 2009

Gubernatorial Op-Ed: Jerry Behn

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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jerry-behnIf you and I were to sit down and talk about the main issues facing Iowa today, what would they be?


Let’s look at each of them and see if you agree.

Budget- First of all, let me state that our current budget shortfall is simply not your fault. When Governor Culver took office, the state budget was about 5,400,000,000. This year, the state budget is about 6,100,000,000. Governor Culver’s policy has been: tax and spend, bailout and spend, and borrow and spend. Do you notice a common theme? Spend, spend, and spend. With all of that spending, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates next year, that there will be a shortfall of somewhere between $800,000,000 to just over $1,000,000,000.

In spite of what the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says, the governor says things are just fine.

Governor Culver seems to no longer be living in Iowa, but in the state of denial. The governor and his crew are telling you, that you are simply not paying enough in taxes to support their habits. They say that the national and Iowa recession is the problem. What they are not telling you is that the state is receiving near record revenue, in spite of the recession. Did you hear that on the news? I didn’t think so. What they are not telling you, is that if they had spent at just two times the rate of inflation, we would have a surplus. Have you heard that before? Probably not.

The fact is, Governor Culver, and the democratic leaders, have spent money like drunken sailors, and with all due deference to drunken sailors, drunken sailors at least, spend their own money. The governor and democratic leader’s plan is to rely on one time bailout money, one time borrowed money, and increased taxes to get them by. That is not a plan, it is a blueprint for the same financial problems other fiscally irresponsible states, like California, are facing.

Remember that it was not where the Titanic was, that was the problem, it was where it was headed. If the Titanic had just changed course, it would have avoided disaster. We need to change course too, and we need to change it before it is too late.
Fiscal responsibility has been accomplished in Iowa before, and it can be achieved again.

Education- When I was in school, I was taught that a monopoly drives down the quality of service, and drives costs higher. So, how do we incorporate more competition in the school system? One way is to provide parents more options for places to send their children to school. We can do that by increasing the tuition tax credit and increasing school tuition organizations or STO’s. That would not only increase competition; it would lower the cost of education to the state.

Currently there are approximately 40,000 non–public school children in Iowa. If we use $5,500 for an approximate cost to the state budget, and subtract out the current 250 tuition tax credit, that means our current Iowa budget would be approximately $210,000,000 higher if all of those students went to public schools. If we increased the tuition tax credit to $1500 and incented another 20,000 children to attend non-public schools we would save another $30,000,000.

Economic Development- Have you ever watched some children on a beach building a sand castle? They can work for hours, and build some truly intricate designs. Then, in a matter of seconds, a wave comes in and wipes it all away. It is if it never even existed. Job promoting legislation can be just like that. We can remove hurdle after hurdle to the job creators in this state and take years to build a good reputation.

Then, when even the talk of repealing the right-to-work, or allowing doctor shopping, or passing a prevailing wage law, or rewriting our chapter 20, or failing to couple our tax code to the federal code occurs, it wipes all our work and reputation away. It is as if it never existed. We need to be clear that our right–to–work law is here to stay. We need to be clear that our reputation is sound. That we will promote job-creating legislation. We have done it before, and we can do it again.

Let me give you and example of a wasted opportunity. We had a chance for a $1,750,000,000 investment in Iowa. Alliant was going to build a state-of–the-art, coal-fired power plant with biofuel capability in Marshalltown. After working long and hard at the permitting process, the plan finally come up before the Iowa Utilities Board for their approval. They did not allow a rate of return as high as Alliant needed, so Alliant gave up, and dropped their plan.

That plant would have provided over 1200 construction jobs and would have employed around 50 full time people. It would also have provided opportunities for us, our children, and our grandchildren to have a plentiful, reliable clean energy source for years to come. What was our governor’s response? Indifference.
We had the potential for an investment that was basically a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it was simply allowed to vanish. I have subsequently asked Alliant to reconsider, and reapply. As your governor, I would try again as well. We simply cannot allow that kind of opportunity to be washed away, by a wave of indifference.

We may not have the power to change the governor’s mind, but we do have the power to change the governor.

Social Issues- In 1998 I voted for, and helped pass the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA as it was called. In 2004, I voted for, but was unfortunately unable to pass a resolution that would have allowed you to vote on a constitutional amendment as to whether or not marriage should be between one man and one woman. That measure lost by 2 votes in the senate. I still believe the people of Iowa, not 7 justices sitting behind a bench, should decide, and I still favor letting you vote on such an amendment.
I was also the point person in the senate attempting to preserve our ban on human cloning. Unfortunately that ban was overturned in a completely partisan way, and even with heavy opposition from Iowans, our current governor signed the bill allowing cloning right here in Iowa.

We had a chance to talk a little about a lot of subjects, but I read a quote a while back that summarizes my political beliefs, and I would like to share it with you.

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help people permanently, by doing for them, what they could, and should, do for themselves.
-Abraham Lincoln

Senator Jerry Behn
SD 24

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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