Governor Tom Vilsack today called for an increase in the cigarette tax and reform of Iowa’s property tax system. Vilsack outlined his agenda this morning (Tuesday) in the annual “Condition of the State” message Iowa’s governors are required by law to deliver to lawmakers. Vilsack gave reporters a preview earlier this morning, and revealed he’ll convene a special task force tomorrow to start talking about ways to consolidate governments.

Vilsack says he hasn’t decided how much of a cigarette tax increase he’ll request when he delivers his budget plan to lawmakers in a few days, but he says the money raised should be committed to health care programs.

Vilsack’s also calling for 39-million dollars worth of spending to improve pre-school programs and access to pre-school. He wants the money immediately.
“The future of this state depends on our ability to take care of our children and to do a better job than we’ve done in the past,” Vilsack says. “As good a job as we’ve done, it’s not good enough.” Vilsack also proposes doubling the amount of state money for teacher pay increases and he promises to recommend that lawmakers increase spending in every area of the state’s education system — all the way to community colleges and the state-supported universities. Vilsack’s also deregulating the telecommunications industry — for business lines.

And Vilsack proposes borrowing 800-million dollars to bankroll the state’s defunct Iowa Values economic development fund for the next five years. Vilsack said in the speech that the state has moved forward in his six years in office, but he tried to create a sense of urgency among legislators that they have more work to do.

He says,”History calls us to this time and to this place. A solemn choice rests with us. Where do we go from here? Do we move slowly and incrementally, or do we seize the challenge of our time and tackle the great issues of our day?” Vilsack closed his speech by saying lawmakers can “create an Iowa that’s consistent with our values.” He says, “we can create an Iowa that provides to every citizen the opportunity for success. And we can create an Iowa that is the best place to live, to work and raise a family. That is our challenge. That is our call. That is our duty.” [Full text as delivered]