During a debate last night in Cedar Rapids, the major party candidates for Governor quibbled over the condition of the state budget and state economy. The exchanges between Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack and Republican rival Doug Gross got sharper as the hour-long debate progressed. Vilsack criticized Gross for pushing tax breaks for the corporations Gross has worked for as a lobbyist. Vilsack says, “we’re not going to grow the economy with tax credits. We’re going to grow the economy by providing resources to build businesses today, not having to wait years and years and years.” Gross repeatedly asked Iowans if they were better off than they were four years ago when Vilsack took office. He says four years ago we heard good talk about how we’re going to be the food capital. Gross says he’s talked with many people who say they aren’t better off.Vilsack said the state’s workforce has expanded, with record employment levels and growth in personal income. Vilsack said Republican legislators and the Republican Auditor refute Gross’ allegation that there’s a billion dollar state deficit, and he called on Gross to “acknowledge” he’s wrong. Gross stuck to his charge. Gross said no one suggests the state is better off than it was four years ago — he said the state was in a “world of hurt.” The candidates discussed livestock regulations, with Gross advocating new zoning rules. Vilsack expressed doubt that Gross would follow through.Vilsack said Gross has been the “champion of corporate hog lots” through his legal work for large-scale operators. Gross responded. saying the Governor was calling him “names,” and Gross said he wanted to focus on issues. And the candidates were asked if they support gay rights and Vilsack was the first to respond. Vilsack said state law should bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Gross said he doesn’t believe in discrimination, but Gross said the state shouldn’t be creating “special rights” for homosexuals. In closing comments, Gross said Vilsack’s four years in office had been a “litany of mismanagement, wasted opportunities and busted budgets.” He asked again if Iowa is better off than it was four years ago. Gross says the sad answer is “no.” Vilsack closed by saying economic times had forced the state to “make sacrifices”.Vilsack said because of those sacrifices, the state is now poised to make investments that’ll spur the economy.
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