Governor Tom Vilsack has a chance to lay out his agenda for the next year and lay down the rhetorical groundwork for a presidential campaign this morning when Vilsack delivers the annual “Condition of the State” address at the statehouse.
During an interview with Radio Iowa last week, Governor Tom Vilsack outlined the general theme of today’s speech. “I would say that the theme is that Iowa is a strong community and it must become stronger through innovation and creativity,” Vilsack says. “That it the pathway to a prosperous future for our state.” To spark more innovation and creativity, Vilsack will argue the state must spend more to boost teacher pay and ensure that every four-year-old in Iowa can enroll in a quality preschool.
Vilsack’s been honing a “stump” speech the past few months that he’s delivered at Democratic Party functions around the country, and he stresses the idea of uniting, through government, to address problems. “In America today the risk of unemployment, (a) lack of health insurance (and) of retirement security (are) all being shifted to the individual,” Vilsack said during a speech in November. “That is why we need a fully engaged Democratic party restoring the American community so we can renew the American promise.”
Vilsack has been claiming success on several fronts, too. “With our teachers, with those in our school districts, we worked together to make sure that our youngsters got a good start and after eight years of declining test scores under a Republican administration we now have five consecutive years of improved test scores,” Vilsack said during a speech to Iowa Democrats. But during that interview with Radio Iowa last week, Vilsack suggested his speech today will be toned down to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.”I think it’s important to emphasize how well we have worked together and the progress that has been made by working together,” Vilsack says. “It’s a hallmark of a strong community that people work together.”
Vilsack says the political fighting between Democrats and Republicans “can wait ’til fall.” “We need to finish the work that we’ve started in a bipartisan way,” Vilsack says. “The reality is my name is not on the ballot in the fall 2006. Many legislators’ names are on the ballot. I think it is good politics to focus on policy.” Also today, Vilsack will give legislators his outline for state spending in the next fiscal year. Yesterday (Monday), Republican lawmakers were sending the message that they’ll resist a spending increase of more than three percent.
Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson is a Republican from Clarion. “I’m hopeful that when the governor presents his budget, it will be within reason,” Iverson says. “If the governor comes with a budget of spending $750, $800 million (of new spending) I think every one of us standing up here will tell you it’s D.O.A. on arrival.” Iverson says the state can’t afford to over-spend. Another subject confronting legislators this year is what to do about the “TouchPlay” machines the Iowa Lottery has placed in over 25-hundred businesses throughout the state.The casino industry complains they’re just like slot machines.
Iverson has told representatives of the state’s casinos and the Iowa Lottery that it would be best if they resolve this among themselves, and present a compromise to legislators. “It would be nice if you could get everybody involved in the industry to sit down and see if they can work something out,” Iverson says.