Four of the Democrats who’re running for governor courted an important group this weekend — the public employees union that’s known as AFSCME. Unlike most unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is growing and the AFSCME local in Iowa has played a pivotal role in recent Democratic campaigns.
Former Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin found himself defending the state’s new, huge economic development fund which he managed against charges that it’s “corporate welfare.” Blouin said state and local governments are reaping more in tax revenue than was handed out in grants to businesses, and he says the so-called “Values Fund” will help the state “turn the corner” and rebound economically.
But another candidate, Representative Ed Fallon of Des Moines, has never supported the initiative. The Iowa Values Fund was created in 2003 with the 100-million dollars the state got from a federal economic stimulus package. Fallon says five months after all that money was plugged into the Iowa Values Fund, Governor Vilsack had to cut the state budget across the board by two-and-a-half percent — a 48 million dollar cut to schools. “The connection is there. We chose to fund the Values Fund over education,” Fallon said.
Secretary of State Chet Culver touted his background as a history teacher. “I would be the only governor in the United States of America who has actually been in the classroom in the last 15 years,” Culver said. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge told the union the formula which distributes state aid to K-through-12 public schools needs to be examined to make sure growing schools as well as shrinking schools get a fair allotment of state tax dollars. “I certainly don’t have all the answers to that here today, but I think it is time that we look again at that formula to make sure that it is equitable,” Judge said.