Iowa native Mike Johanns is settling in to his new digs in Washington, D.C. The former Nebraska governor who grew up on an Osage, Iowa, dairy farm is now the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Johanns’ wife, Stephanie, says life has radically changed since the move from Nebraska’s capitol to the nation’s capitol. She says their days go from 7 A.M. until 7 P.M. “but in some respects we feel like our life is a little easier ’cause then we don’t have evening commitments.” She says they’ve only had one evening commitment post-inaugural, so while their daily lives are more hectic, she says they’re actually getting to spend their nights together, a pleasant change. One big adjustment is their living quarters. Mrs. Johanns says their accommodations in Washington are very nice, but they’re not the governor’s mansion in Lincoln. It’s a one-bedroom apartment with a washer-drier built-in and a health club in the complex. She says she was thrilled to be right on the platform at the U.S. Capitol during the inauguration of President Bush. She says they were eight to ten rows behind the president and then got to sit in Bush’s viewing box to watch the inaugural parade, which she describes as “really cool.” Stephanie Johanns is an Arizona native.
Archives for January 2005
The UNI women’s basketball team begins the week alone in third place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a league mark of 6-3. The Panthers recorded a rare victory in Des Moines yesterday as the Panthers beat Drake 68-54. It was just the second win in 28-tries for the Panthers in Des Moines. UNI coach Tony DiCecco was happy with the way his team responded following a heartbreaking overtime loss to Creighton on Thursday. He says the team gets credit for its resiliency coming out of the loss and were able to play hard. DiCecco was asked if he feels the team understands the importance of winning in Des Moines. He says he doesn’t know if they realize the full extent of breaking a very long winning streak. The Panther’s win snapped Drake’s 15-game home winning streak against Missouri Valley Conference opponents.
The I-R-S wants more people in Iowa to claim a tax benefit they’re not getting. The Earned Income Tax Credit participation rate is below 75-percent here, and the program’s David Williams says that means people are missing out on getting cash in their pockets, a select group of taxpayers who could really use it. People who have low incomes and work. If they’ve earned their income and they don’t have much money, they may be eligible for the credit. He says they estimate is that nationwide, 75-percent of taxpayers who are eligible for the E-I-T-C claim it. The largest group of people who could claim the credit but don’t is found among people who don’t have children and so don’t think they’re eligible. Williams says there are several ways the many Iowans currently not claiming their Earned-Income Tax Credit can find out about it. They can go to the website irs-dot-gov on the Internet and click on the “EITC Assistant,” a new feature this year to help taxpayers figure out if they qualify for the credit, and for how much. Or people can walk into one of 14-thousand volunteer income-tax assistance sites the IRS runs around the country that help prepare tax returns for free. In some IRS offices they might even find help preparing their taxe forms to claim that earned income tax credit. Or if a professional tax preparer does the return, be sure to ask them about it. It can mean up to 43-hundred dollars in cash, he says, adding that an example would be a married couple with two kids earning a total between 10-thousand-700 dollars a year and 15-thousand could get that maximum credit. Williams says one reason people don’t file for the tax credit is that with a low income, they may not be required to file a tax return. Even if they don’t have to pay in to the government, he says it’s worth it to file the form. The tax is refundable, he says, so even if you don’t have to pay taxes, the government will send you a check for that Earned Income Tax Credit amount. That’s the reason Williams says people who aren’t sure should get help with their taxes and find out what they may have coming. Iowa’s one of the states in which only three out of four people who COULD get the credit are claiming it.
Governor Tom Vilsack wants to increase the state tax on cigarettes by 80 cents per pack, starting April 1st. That proposal is among hundreds included in Vilsack’s five-billion dollar state spending plan. Vilsack says Iowa’s 36-cents-per-pack cigarette tax ranks 42nd lowest in the country, and raising the tax will not only raise money but save lives as more people decide to quit rather than pay the tax. Vilsack warns legislators that if the tobacco tax isn’t increased, they may have to cut some state health care services like hospice care or prescription drug coverage for the poor elderly. “Without a tobacco tax increase, the legislature is faced with some very difficult choices,” Vilsack says. “They can choose to pit grandchildren against grandparents.” Vilsack proposes a total of 137, million dollars more for K-through-12 public schools, including nearly 47-and-a-half million dollars to boost teacher pay. Vilsack says the state hasn’t made that high of a spending comittment to K-through-12 schools in over a decade. “I think it’s really important for people to understand the importance of investing in children and in education because if we make children and we help them with the tools for success, they can essentially help us fix whatever problems society faces,” Vilsack says. Vilsack also calls for a four percent increase in state spending for the 15 area community colleges and a 40 million dollar increase in state spending at the state-supported universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City. Finally, on economic development, Vilsack proposes an 800-million, five-year committment to an Iowa Values Fund to dole out large state grants to new and expanding businesses. Vilsack says it isn’t enough to make a one-year committment, because the state needs to enter multi-year pacts with companies. Vilsack says the new taxes that state will collect from new gambling operations could be used to finance it, but he’s willing to look at other options. As you may recall, an Iowa Supreme Court ruling this summer put the Iowa Values Fund out of business. Vilsack briefed legislative leaders earlier this afternoon (Monday) on this budget plans, then released his spending ideas to statehouse reporters. At four o’clock he convenes a meeting in Waukee to lay out his plan to the public.
A former NBA all-star is looking to help promote Waterloo’s new professional basketball team. Tim Hardaway, who starred with several NBA teams, has agreed to play the first two games for the Waterloo Kings, a new International Basketball League team that begins play this spring. The IBL is a developemental league that will play a 20-game season between April and June. Hardaway will play for the Kings first two home games, April 8th and 9th and possibly some other home games. The former Golden State and Miami Heat star just wants to help bring attention to the Waterloo Kings. He says he is going out to compete and enjoy himself and put people in the stands. Hardaway likes the premise of the I-B-L, as he says it’s a stepping stone for players who aren’t ready for the N-B-A yet. He says players won’t have to go overseas to prepare themselves for a shot at the N-B-A.The Kings will be coached by former Waterloo West standout Anthony Thomas and will play their home games at Young Arena in Waterloo.
Fire struck the Colonial Manor nursing home in the western Iowa town of Anita on Saturday night. All residents had to be evacuated but Anita fire spokesman Duane Murphy says the fire was contained to one resident’s room. Murphy says it appears the fire started near some nick-knacks along a wall in the room. The sprinkler system went off like it was designed to do and the residents were evacuated without incident to the other side of the building. Two people had minor injuries — one resident and one nurse. The State Fire Marshal’s office has been called in to investigate.
A northwest Iowa man died in a car crash Sunday. A Hawarden area man was killed in a one-vehicle crash on Highway 10 near Hawarden. Sioux County authorities say 37-year-old Elvis Gene Boyer was a passenger in a car driven by 31-year-old Shane Gray of Hawarden that went into a ditch and rolled. Boyer had been sitting in the back seat and was not wearing a safety belt. He was ejected through the back window and pronounced dead at the scene. Gray and another passenger, 50-year-old Stuart Johnson of Hawarden, were injured.
Governor Tom Vilsack will release his state budget plan this afternoon. It’s expected to outline more than five billion dollars in state spending, and Vilsack has indicated it will include a cigarette tax increase, though he has not revealed how much of an increase. Legislators control the state’s purse strings as any budget must be approved by the House and Senate. Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a republican from Dows, says legislators have been in a holding pattern, waiting for Vilsack’s proposals. Iverson describes the governor’s budget presentation as a “new beginning” for the 2005 Iowa Legislature. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says legislators now will begin their budgeting process in earnest. “We are anxious to see what he lays out in there,” Rants says. Democrats say they want to see money in Vilsack’s budget plan to extend more health insurance coverage to more uninsured Iowans. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, says it’ll help Iowans who have private insurance. Gronstal says one reason insurance premiums are skyrocketing is because hospitals and doctors pass along the costs of caring for people who don’t have insurance by raising charges for people who do have insurance. Gronstal proposes allowing parents who have their kids enrolled in the state’s HAWK-I, government-paid health insurance to sign up themselves for coverage.Gronstal says it’s allowed under federal law. It’s a great deal for the state, according to Gronstal, because for every one dollar the state spends the federal government will spend three for providing health care insurance to poor adults. “I think it would be a mistake not to expand availability of health insurance for Iowans…both for those people (who) need it and all the rest of us (who) end up paying for it through higher insurance premiums,” Gronstal says.
A welcome home celebration is planned for this afternoon (Monday) at Camp Dodge.
Two units of the Iowa National Guard are returning to the Hawkeye State after about 13 months of federal active duty in the Persian Gulf. The 767th Engineer Team,(shown in photo above), spent the past year in Iraq on firefighting duty while the 10-88th Personnel Services Detachment has been in Kuwait — providing administrative services. Combined, the two units have about 65 members who are all completing their demobilation processing at about the same time and should be arriving at the Joint Forces Headquarters around 5:30 P.M.
As state legislators debate new restrictions on cold and allergy medications that are being used to make methamphetamine, an official from a western Iowa drug treatment center hopes the efforts succeed in cutting meth production — and addiction. Chad Jensen is executive director of New View Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention Center. Jensen says products containing pseudoephedrine should be put behind the counter. Jensen says “By limiting access or at least being aware of who’s buying this ephedrine and these kinds of products, it is going to have an effect on the amount of meth that’s being made.” He says there are other key fronts in the battle against methamphetamine that need to be remembered as lawmakers craft new legislation. Jensen says “You have to understand that people don’t just start using meth out of the blue. They work their way up and they start with a lot of gateway drugs.” He points to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana as “gateways” and says continuing efforts to warn Iowans about addiction to these substances will have a larger impact on the state’s meth problem.Jensen says “I certainly appreciate the meth prevention that we’re trying to do, and we’re trying to get the word out that meth is a very addictive, scary drug that’s damaging Iowa families. We certainly want to emphasize that, but more so we need to emphasize that it’s these gateway drugs that we also have to really be aware of.” Jensen suggests that parents can keep their kids’ attention by talking about drugs while they are a captive audience in the car. He also says it’s never too soon to start with age-appropriate warnings about the dangers of drug addiction. New View has offices in: Carroll, Audubon, Guthrie Center, Jefferson and Sac City. Its website is “www.newview.info”.