The two major party candidates for governor appeared Thursday night at a forum sponsored by AARP – Iowa, the senior citizen’s group. Republican Jim Nussle and Democrat Chet Culver disagreed on whether the state should raise the cigarette tax and talked about stem cell research, too.
Culver promises to repeal a state law banning stem cell research in Iowa if he’s elected governor. “By lifting the state ban, we could give hope and opportunity to thousands of Iowans, perhaps tens of thousands of Iowans over the long term who are suffering from diabetes, from Alzheimers, and from Parkinson’s,” Culver said. “I have proposed that we create a Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Iowa and start researching and finding lifesaving cures.”
Nussle would allow the state law banning stem cell research to stand. “I support stem cel research. What I don’t support is embryonic stem cell research,” Nussle said. “There have been no breakthroughs in embryonic stem cell research but there have been vast therapies developed with regard to human stem cell research.”
Culver backs a one-dollar-per-pack increase in the state tax on cigarettes. “I believe, first and foremost, that a governor needs to do everything they can do when it comes to saving lives. Studies have shown us that in Iowa we could save up to 13,000 lives by preventing young people from smoking in the first place if we increase the cigarette tax in this state,” Culver said. “The overwhelming majority of Iowans support this.”
Surveys have found a majority of AARP members support a hike in the tobacco tax if the money raised goes towards health care.
Nussle opposes the tobacco tax increase. “Teen smoking is on the rise again even after the public service campaigns, even after increases in the cigarette tax around the country,” Nussle said. “Unfortunately, what the politicians like to do is they like to raise taxes on people who maybe don’t have a voice. Many lower income people are the ones that we’re preying on with a tax like that and then it doesn’t go to health care, it doesn’t go to the Senior Living Trust like the AARP would like it to go to.”
The AARP forum was broadcast on Iowa Public Television.