Governor Tom Vilsack this morning urged school board members to start pestering statehouse politicians about their budget problems. Vilsack is calling for a hike in the state cigarette tax and expanding the sales taxes to more services in order to raise more tax money for priority areas, like education. Vilsack says if something’s not done, schools will be forced to layoff 39-hundred faculty and staff members, and he says “that’s just not right.” Vilsack told an Iowa Association of School Boards meeting it’s up to Iowans, now, to start telling legislators to raise taxes rather than cut the state budget further. Vilsack took a swipe at legislators from his own party who have expressed reservations about tax increases, saying both republicans and democrats “don’t understand what’s going on.” Vilsack told the school board members to start writing details letters and e-mail — not form letters — to lawmakers outlining the cuts they’ll be forced to make in their districts. And Vilsack accused Republicans who’ve been pressing for a freeze in state worker pay of trying to pit state workers against schools.Vilsack says it’s not correct, because the resources for state employee pay will be found within existing department budgets.
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