Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“Apparently, GOP senators would rather keep the public in the dark about who is bankrolling their campaigns. What do they have to hide?"

July 17, 2012 by Common Dreams

Senate Republicans Kill Disclose Act in Blow to Campaign Transparency

Citizens United Remains Unscathed as GOP Senators 'keep public in the dark'

- Common Dreams staff
Senate Republicans blocked the Disclose Act Monday night, effectively killing a bid for campaign donor transparency in the post-Citizens United world. The Disclose Act, which was defeated 51-44, would have required independent groups to release the names of campaign donors who give more than $10,000 for political ads and other campaign tactics.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (AP)
The Act was drafted in response to the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allows limitless corporate donations to be given to outside political campaigners, known as super PACs, in secret.

"The DISCLOSE Act would help the American people understand who is behind the political messages we’re bombarded with every day,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Apparently, GOP senators would rather keep the public in the dark about who is bankrolling their campaigns. What do they have to hide?"
"Today, the Senate had a chance to protect the American people’s right to know who is trying to sway their vote. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans chose to protect the anonymity of the wealthy few at the expense of the American public."
The Republican filibuster of the bill was led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) one of several republican senators who once supported campaign finance disclosure but have recently favored increased secrecy in Washington, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
"These same politicians were for the disclosure measure for years, until there was a chance it might actually pass. Now they are filibustering it," said Michael Waldman, at the Brennan Center at NYU.
As a result, corporations will continue to spend large sums of money to influence elections and subsequent policy while remaining anonymous.
* * *

Question: On Cloture on the Motion to Proceed (Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S.3369 )
Vote Number:179Vote Date:July 16, 2012, 06:08 PM
Required For Majority:3/5Vote Result:Cloture on the Motion to Proceed Rejected
Measure Number:S. 3369
Measure Title:A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities, and for other purposes.
Vote Counts:YEAs51
 Not Voting5

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My email to the Leslie Coolidge for Congress Campaign

You should know this about your telemarketing staff

They must have trained in a boiler room to sell rotten stocks to the very suceptible.

Your telemarketer who called our house today (Ganzer, (www) yyy-xxxx) did a great job of not taking no (not now, actually) for an answered, and persisted (after all, my father does not have the common sense to hang up on unwanted phone calls) in trying to suck money out of his pocket.

Then they hit a nerve, because it reminded him of how his wife (my mother) died last July 31, 2011, and how, amongst other things, the household income has declined by 50%, and how even though he still tithes for church, and additionally contributes to other causes he deems worthy, he cannot afford to tithe and give more upon the tithe at the same level as before.

The phone call ended with my father raising his voice to inform the telemarketeer that my father would under NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER vote for Leslie Coolidge for any political office she might ever aspire to.  This response, from a life long member of the Democratic Party, a retired high school teacher who negotiated over 20 teacher's union contracts, is stunning indeed.

Don't you know how to train telemarketeers in the fine art of, "thank you for your time. We really want your vote in November.  Have a good day."

Out of solidarity for my father, I have decided to not vote for Leslie either.

Two more years of Peter Roskem won't be the worst political experience to ever befall us.

You really ought to shape up your campaign in order to have any hope at all of winning.

Maybe you should talk with Maureen Yates, whose votes in the primary cost her $0.70 each as compared to the votes Leslie garnered, which cost $10.00 each.

Just saying.

Mark Ganzer

The Coolidge Campaign Fucks up Badly

My father took a call this afternoon from a telemarketer working for the Leslie Coolidge for the US House of Representatives this afternoon.  He explained that he was not at this time ready to make a financial committment (how is it that Leslie's campaign needs so much money - she has FOREVER been courting wealthy people for their financial support, almost as if winning the election is about $$$ rather than VVVOOOTTTEEESSS!).

If elected, she'd just be another corporate whore, a la Melissa Bean, anyway.

ANYWAY, my father, the good German that he is, sounded like an easy "mark" for the marketer, so, the marketer used some marketing tricks to try and gouge shekels from his pocket, since he was to dumb to just hang up.  But, the marketer's persistence was duly rewarded, as dad got to relive mom's death, from almost one year ago (7-24-2011), and got to thinking again about how the household income has declined significantly, and about how he is no longer able to tithe at the same level when the household had 50% more income, and dad just got PISSED THE FUCK OFF!

"Okay.  Here's what you just got.  I'm NEVER GOING TO VOTE FOR YOUR CANDIDATE."

My God in heaven.  A telemarketer pisses off a life-long member of the democratic party to try and gouge him up for a few bucks. 

Well deserved.  When you lie down with fleas in shit, you end up with fleas and smelling like shit.

I simply MUST pass this along to the Coolidge campagin!

The very good news in local politics is that Dee Beaubien (wife of former Illinois State Rep Mark Beaubien, who died, sadly, way too young) will be running for Mark's former seat in the Illinois House! Republicans are pissed off!

Dee Beaubien to Appear on November Ballot

Beaubien has filed enough signatures to appear on the ballot as an Independent candidate for the 52nd House District.

By Morgan DeLac - 25 June, 2012

Dee Beaubien will appear on the ballot this November as an Independent candidate in the race for the 52nd House District seat.

Beaubien’s campaign filed 3,500 signatures in Springfield today. Illinois election law requires Independent candidates to file at least 1,500 valid signatures, which is three times the number required of partisan candidates.

“I am grateful for the enthusiastic, wide-spread support of the voters who signed my petitions, and for the dozens of supporters who circulated them, walking door-to-door on weekends and evenings throughout the four counties of the 52nd District,” Beaubien said in a press release. 

Beaubien will take on Republican candidate David McSweeney, who edged out Rep. Kent Gaffney during the March primary election. McSweeney is a financial consultant from Barrington Hills.

The 52nd House District is covers parts of Algonquin, Barrington, Barrington Hills, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Island Lake, Lake in the Hills, North Barrington, Oakwood Hills, South Barrington and Wauconda.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Empathy: The Secret Sauce to a Happy Marriage

Empathy: The Secret Sauce to a Happy Marriage

by Julie HanksLCSW, for Sharecare
Are you empathetic? Is your partner? It might be the secret to a happier marriage. According to a recent study from Harvard University, being able to accurately read a partner's emotions--and believing that your partner is trying to understand your emotions--is related to couple relationship satisfaction.

This study highlights certain gender differences that echo dynamics I've seen in my clinical practice and in my 23-year marriage:
1. Women are more satisfied in their relationship if their partner accurately empathized with negative emotions. 

2. Men were more satisfied when they could read their partner's positive emotions accurately. 

3. Women's ability to read their partner's negative emotions was positively linked to both men's and women's relationship satisfaction.

The authors suggested that for men, being able to understand and be empathetic to their partner's negative emotions may feel threatening to the relationship, but women don't seem to find negative emotions threatening. Findings suggest that effort, not just accuracy, positively impacts relationships.
Developing Empathy 

If your relationship is distressed or if you simply want to make a good relationship better, here are some ways to work on your empathy skills.

Listen for emotional messages 

The emotional message isn't the same as the words that your partner is saying. Your partner may be criticizing you for not spending enough time together, but the emotional message may actually be, "I miss you and I'm afraid I'm not important to you."

Push the pause button on your own emotions 

When your partner is expressing something critical, it's easy to respond defensively. Before reacting, take a deep breath and try to slow down your own emotional response so you can hear the emotion behind the criticism.

Reflect back your partner's emotional plea 

Instead of coming back defensively with, "What are you talking about? We just went on a walk yesterday, and we went to dinner last weekend!" respond to your partner's emotional plea by saying something like, "You really miss me and want to spend more time together. Thanks for letting me know. I love you."

Even if you read the emotional message inaccurately, your effort to understand your partner's emotions will pay off!

Julie Hanks, LCSW, is Sharecare Now's #1 Online Depression Influencer. A licensed psychotherapist, she has over 20 years in the mental health field, providing outpatient psychotherapy services to children, adolescents, adults, couples and families with complex mental health and relationship problems.

Obama’s intense focus on Iowa has made the war look asymmetrical. Since April, he has unleashed a torrent of TV advertising. Romney is just beginning to make his case via TV ads, but the super political action committees are also revving up again on his behalf.

Romney eyes an opening with battleground Iowa's evangelicals

Evangelicals haven't turned out 

for him in caucuses, but may 

give him a November win.

Could the third time be the charm for Mitt Romney?
Romney’s strength in the 2012 Iowa caucuses was with economic voters, especially those in the Des Moines suburbs. But the same evangelical conservatives who sidestepped Romney twice in the Iowa caucuses could be his best friends in the general election.
As the general election approaches, Romney is running as strongly as conservative icon U.S. Rep. Steve King with voters in Iowa’s GOP-dominant western coast, according to internal polling obtained by The Des Moines Register. That’s a good sign for Romney — there’s no such thing as a King/Obama voter.
If Iowa’s evangelicals put a GOP presidential candidate over the top, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Everyone — including the Register’s Iowa Poll — thought Democrat John Kerry would win Iowa in 2004. But a larger than expected evangelical voter turnout in the western part of the state secured the Iowa trophy for George W. Bush.
The guy with the spatula who flipped Iowa for Bush that year?
King, said Chuck Laudner, the congressman’s former district director.
“It’s going to be 2004 all over again,” predicted Laudner, who campaigned aggressively in Iowa this cycle for former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Romney isn’t repeating Karl Rove’s 2004 appeal-to-the-base strategy in Iowa, his campaign strategists say. The Rove-directed George W. Bush re-election campaign targeted mainly northwest Iowa and a ring of Des Moines suburbs. Romney’s campaign intends to hold those coalitions in place, while pursuing voters in purple counties in eastern Iowa, southeast Iowa and central Iowa.
President Barack Obama’s perceived liberal agenda alone is a bloody shirt that revs up the right, so Romney can invest his dollars in reeling in independents and conservative Democrats, numbers that could put him over the top in what is expected to be a close race here. And his message will focus on the economy, an issue that plays to his background as a businessman and the emotions of listeners pummeled by the recession and its aftermath.
Obama is up by a hair, 2.5 percent, in a rolling average compiled by, but polling quickly becomes ancient history, and this race will start moving fast, campaign strategists said.
Last week, The Des Moines Register interviewed 12 conservative independent or Republican voters who told the Iowa Poll in February that their opinion of Romney was “very unfavorable.” Now, all but one say they will definitely vote for Romney in November.
“He’s all we have left right now,” said conservative Republican Sarah Martin, a substitute teacher from the Fremont County town of Imogene who backed Santorum. “This is the last two minutes of the ballgame.”

General election is a new ballgame

Romney would have every right to be gun-shy about Iowa. After he pampered Iowa in 2008, with $8 million in spending and a constant presence on the campaign trail, caucusgoers veered around him in favor of former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. This year, they fell in line behind Christian conservative Rick Santorum, helping him overtake Romney at the last minute.
But Romney almost won — and the news articles his Boston headquarters selected to hang on the walls, reflecting the count on caucus night, say he did win. Missing are the headlines on the certified count two weeks later that gave Santorum the official victory.
Although the scoreboard reads Obama 2-0 in Iowa and Romney 0-2, pollster J. Ann Selzer underscores that Romney’s two losses here were in caucuses, which means a very small voter pool.
“This is his first general election, and there’s nothing else in comparison,” she said.
But at a time when Romney needs evangelicals, the leader of their movement isn’t doing much for him in Iowa. On Tuesday, Santorum starts a two-day “thank you tour” in Iowa. None of his six stops includes campaign events for Romney.
If Iowans sense a Santorum slight toward Romney, that’s unlikely to affect the election, said David Yepsen, a longtime Iowa politics writer who is now director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
“His failure to be a good trooper hurts Santorum much more than it’ll hurt Romney. You’ve got to be a good loser in this game,” Yepsen said. “Romney doesn’t need Santorum’s blessing.”

Team Romney has started to ramp up

Obama’s intense focus on Iowa has made the war look asymmetrical. Since April, he has unleashed a torrent of TV advertising. 
Romney is just beginning to make his case via TV ads, but the super political action committees are also revving up again on his behalf.
Team Obama repeatedly cites the strength of its Iowa organization, with 14 offices and a robust staff, as an advantage over Romney. The GOP effort is playing catch-up: Seven offices are open in Iowa, and the first large-scale Republican volunteer effort was Saturday.
“Clearly they’ve invested a ton on infrastructure,” acknowledged Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, in an interview in his office at the Boston campaign headquarters. “They’re trying to personally lower the unemployment rate by hiring field staff — and they need to because there’s an incredible intensity gap out there.”
The Romney camp believes his investments here last year — grass-roots organizing through the year and an all-out push by Romney himself in late December — will heighten his competitiveness.

Both camps convey sense of confidence

Data that make Republicans salivate: In January, Iowa Democrats had a nearly 30,000-person lead in active registered voters. Today, they trail the Republicans by more than 21,000 — a 50,000-voter swing over six months, state records show.
Iowa Republicans also trace a resurgence to Terry Branstad’s victory in the 2010 governor’s race, along with a spate of down-ballot wins. Couple that with a flagging approval rating for Obama nationally, and Romney strategists see promise in Iowa.
Team Romney remains convinced that in the end, the election will turn on the economy. And each month of continued national economic stall — like Friday’s report that June’s unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2 percent — reinforces that confidence.
“Iowans are going to be critical to the outcome of this election,” said Lanhee Chen, Romney’s policy director. “In Iowa as in other parts of the country, there’s a real sense that the economy could be stronger and that the signs of recovery we’re seeing in Iowa could be happening more quickly, and Mitt Romney’s got the policies that are going to help make that happen.”
In contrast, Obama chief strategist David Axelrod thinks his boss’s extended 2007 conversation with Iowans about the economy will help him this fall.
Back in 2007, Obama was talking about the economy before anyone knew the depth of the disaster, Axelrod said.
“Everywhere he went, he talked about the American dream slipping away, and that was a central concern of his,” he said. “That remains the challenge. That ultimately is why he won Iowa, and I think that’s why he’ll win Iowa again.”

Obama to aim Iowa remarks at undecideds

Obama to aim Iowa remarks at undecideds

9 July, 2012
by Jennifer Jacobs

President Barack Obama will aim straight at undecided voters when he drills down on his ideas for the middle class and paying down the federal deficit at a campaign rally in Iowa this week.
The president wants to spell out for Iowans his belief that he and Mitt Romney offer two fundamentally different visions for sustained growth — and his would build an economy “from the middle out, not from the top down,” Obama aides said Sunday.
During his event Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, Obama will again talk about choices, said Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager.

“We have a choice to build an economy meant to last that restores the security the middle class lost over the previous decade, or we can return to the same policies from that decade that crashed our economy and crippled the middle class,” Cutter told The Des Moines Register in a telephone interview Sunday.
“That’s the choice in this election, and that’s the critical difference between President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s visions of where to take this country.”
Shawn McCoy, Romney’s Iowa campaign spokesman, also framed the election as an important choice for Iowans. McCoy said Obama’s campaign promises are hard to take seriously because he broke his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.
“His reckless spending has buried our grandchildren in debt while middle-class families struggle with falling incomes and high unemployment,” McCoy said. “Fortunately, Iowans have a choice. Mitt Romney has the experience and proven track record to create jobs and get our economy moving.”
Tuesday’s visit will be Obama’s fourth this year to Iowa, a state that both sides are battling hard to win on Nov. 6.
The president will meet privately with an Iowa couple, Ali and Jason McLaughlin, to highlight how the federal government can support middle-class families who are the backbone of the economy, campaign aides said.
In the early afternoon, he will give a public speech at the basketball arena at Kirkwood Community College. No more tickets are left for the rally “due to overwhelming demand,” campaign aides said Sunday, but they declined to say how many tickets were available. Kirkwood security officials referred questions about crowd capacity to Obama officials, but news reports indicate the facility seats around 3,000. Doors open at 10:15 a.m. for those with tickets.
Politics watchers have noted that a small number of voters could decide this race: The Republican base will support its guy, the Democratic base will go for its guy, so the outcome will rest on undecided voters, most of whom are affiliated with no party.
The pool of persuadable voters is about 3.75 million in 11 battleground states combined — Iowa, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin — based on the 2008 presidential vote multiplied by the percentage of undecideds represented by the average in each state.
In Iowa, it’s about 142,500 people who could be persuaded to turn either direction.
Obama’s Iowa speech will echo remarks he made in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 14, campaign aides said. That speech was a direct appeal to those who don’t know where their loyalties lie as November approaches, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote that day.
“Obama repeatedly used the phrase ‘this is not spin’ when laying out the parameters of the economic vision offered by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney,” Cillizza wrote. “He linked Romney to House Republicans, who are decidedly unpopular among independents. He used the word ‘fair’ over and over again. He condemned the ‘stalemate’ in Washington and the power that money plays in politics. (Both are a sort of catnip for independent voters.)”
Obama has repeatedly said his vision centers on “education, energy, innovation, infrastructure and a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction.”
“This is the vision behind the jobs plan I sent Congress back in September — a bill filled with bipartisan ideas that, according to independent economists, would create up to 1 million additional jobs if passed today,” Obama said in Ohio.
Iowa has been a swing state for two of the past three elections, where a tight race has come down to fewer than 10,000 votes. Obama did well last time with middle-ground voters such as independents and moderate Republicans, but this year, he’s struggling to keep from going under water here. Polling shows he’s running neck and neck with Romney.
In 12 battleground states including Iowa, Obama is at 47 percent and Romney is at 45 percent, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday. The survey of 1,200 registered voters was taken June 22-29.
Some political strategists think the race for Electoral College votes could end up 266-266, with Iowa as the decider. The battle could come down to Iowa’s six votes if Romney wins traditionally Republican states plus Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, and Obama claims traditionally Democratic states plus Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said Sunday that Obama in his Iowa speech would stress how to pay down the deficit “so that we can invest in the things that we need to grow, like education and clean energy.”
“The president has a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion by asking everybody to pay their fair share and cutting waste,” she said. “That’s a fundamental difference with Mitt Romney, who has a $5 trillion tax cut geared toward the very wealthiest that he pays for by either raising taxes on the middle class or blowing a bigger hole in the deficit.”
— Jennifer Jacobs

The difference between Republicans and Democrats: Hatch also neatly summed up the manner in which a political debate is blocking progress on a pressing policy issue: “The idea [is that] participating in the expansion of Medicaid has a direct effect on our general fund. The governor and I agree on that,” Hatch said. “The difference is, he thinks it’s going to be a burden and I think it’s going to be an asset.”

In press conferences, evidence that Democrats and Republicans are worlds apart on health-care reform

By Jason Nobel - 9 July, 2012

When it comes to the health care law known as Obamacare and its implementation, Democrats and Republicans are just talking past one another.
Case in point: dueling Capitol press conferences this morning from Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, a leading Democrat on health-care issues, and Gov. Terry Branstad, the state’s top Republican.
Hatch, of Des Moines, called a press conference for this morning just ahead of Branstad’s regularly scheduled gaggle to offer his take on the expansion of Medicaid that is part of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health-care overhaul.
The law as written included a requirement that states increase eligibility for the program, but a Supreme Court decision last month dialed back that mandate, so that states can choose whether to accept additional federal funding to insure more people.
At his presser, Hatch, flanked by an executive from the nearby Mercy Medical Center, argued that expanding Medicaid to include more low-income Iowans would lower health care costs for everyone.
Such savings are possible because additional care provided through Medicaid would cut down on instances of uncompensated or “charity” care – services provided by hospitals to the uninsured that ultimately is paid for through higher premiums on everyone with insurance.
A nonpartisan study from the Urban Institute, he said, pegs Iowa’s health savings at as much as $1.9 billion over five years.
“Expansion of the Medicaid program would provide health-care insurance to millions of Americans who desperately need it while at the same time lowering the cost of health coverage for those of us fortunate enough to have insurance,” said Dr. Stephen Eckstat, the Mercy Clinics Inc. CEO.
But in another Capitol conference room just a few minutes later, Branstad offered a wholly different explanation for why Iowa should reject the federal government’s offer to expand coverage.
He called the expansion “clearly unaffordable and unsustainable,” arguing that insuring 17 million more Americans nationwide – including 150,000 in Iowa – would overburden an already expensive government entitlement.
The extra expense will necessitate more federal borrowing and a higher debt, Branstad said. And that higher debt will only become more expensive to finance in the years to come.
“It would be a big mistake to buy into a federal straitjacket that we know we can’t afford and they can’t afford,” Branstad said.
Hatch argued that rejecting the federal program wouldn’t take money off the federal debt, but instead merely deny Iowa the spoils offered to every other state in the nation. Branstad argued that Iowa could go its own way, partnering with insurers and providers in the state to provide more affordable care.
Hatch also neatly summed up the manner in which a political debate is blocking progress on a pressing policy issue: “The idea [is that] participating in the expansion of Medicaid has a direct effect on our general fund. The governor and I agree on that,” Hatch said. “The difference is, he thinks it’s going to be a burden and I think it’s going to be an asset.”

Holy smokes! What's wrong with the state of Iowa? Since 2010, legislators have filled up reserve and emergency funds, socked away an extra $60 million in a “taxpayer trust fund” and ensured a surplus at the end of the year in both 2012 and 2013. Planning for a rainy day?

Iowa Auditor: State government making strides, but spending still exceeds revenues

Updated at 4:15 p.m. with comment from House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.

Iowa state government has made great strides in reducing its dependence on one-time funds for ongoing expenses, but is still spending more than it takes in, state Auditor David Vaudt reported this morning.
In a review of the fiscal year 2013 budget enacted into law this year, Vaudt, a Republican, reported that lawmakers authorized $6.67 billion in state spending for the year that began July 1. That’s $161 million more than the $6.51 billion in available “ongoing” revenues – that is, income from taxes and other sources that can be counted on year after year.
That difference is made up for with what the auditor and others refer to as “one-time” money – dollars held over from the previous year or secured from other sources that may not be available again once they’re spent.
A top stated goal for Republicans – who control the governor’s office and the Iowa House – is to not spend more than the government takes in on an annual basis.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Monday afternoon that figures compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency contradict the auditor’s findings. Although he said he wasn’t “challenging” Vaudt, he added that his staff is working with the auditor’s office to determine just what caused the discrepancy.
“The auditor gets to look at everything after the fact and move some stuff around the way he thinks it should be calculated, but not necessarily the way that the law says you must calculate it,” Paulsen said.
The LSA figures for the enacted 2013 budget show available funds totaling $6.55 billion. Factoring in the state law limiting expenditures to 99 percent of revenues, the money actually available to spend was $6.46 billion. But the budget finally enacted spends just $6.22 billion — $328 million less than actual revenues and $234. 4 million below the spending limit.
The difference between the auditor and LSA spending figures, then, totals roughly $450 million, and it’s not immediately clear what accounts for it.
“There’s a  lot of different ways you can calculate it,” Paulsen said.
In any case, Paulsen said, lawmakers have been responsible with taxpayer money. Since 2010, legislators have filled up reserve and emergency funds, socked away an extra $60 million in a “taxpayer trust fund” and ensured a surplus at the end of the year in both 2012 and 2013.
“He does his auditor stuff the way he does his auditor stuff, but I do know that it’s awful hard to build up one-time funds (in the manner that the state has in recent years) if you’re spending more than what you’ve got coming in,” Paulsen said.
Contested or not by legislators, that $161 million figure actually contrasts favorably with figures from previous years, Vaudt said.
“Are we where we want to be yet?” Vaudt asked. “No, we’re not quite there. But we’re definitely on the right track, and we’ve made significant progress to get to where we want to be.”
In the fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, the gap was $220 million. In fiscal 2011, it was $764 million, according to figures provided by Vaudt.
In addition to the $161 million in spending over revenues, Vaudt’s review also found $71 million in expenditure “shifts,” in which ongoing programs were funded with one-time revenue streams. This, again, is not ideal, Vaudt said, but represents an improvement over previous years.
Looking forward, Vaudt warned of two fiscal challenges facing the state.
One is its pension liabilities. The Iowa Public Employees Retirement System is presently funded at just 80 percent of liabilities, a decline from 98 percent in the year 2000. Fully funding the system should be a major emphasis for policymakers in the years to come – and could be a prudent place to spend the state’s one-time funds, he said.
The other challenge concerns federal aid to the state. Roughly half of Iowa’s total budget – around $6 billion – comes from federal sources, much of it funding the Medicaid health-care program for the poor. As it works to reduce its own debt and deficit problems, the federal government may soon start scaling back that aid, Vaudt said, with serious consequences for the programs now receiving it.
“While Iowa has made very substantial progress in addressing its fiscal house, we have to remember that the federal government is our partner and it must get its fiscal house in order also,” he said. “It’s critical to Iowa’s future.”

A state which is willing to invest money in air conditioning to keep its prison inmates cool will probably have fewer prison riots than a state which lets them fry!

Most Iowa convicts staying cool with AC

Most of the 8,343 inmates in Iowa’s prison system stayed cool during last week’s heat wave with air conditioning, although not every  state correctional facility has a cooling system, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
In Texas, two lawsuits have been filed that challenge the lack of air conditioning in that state’s prisons. Only 21 of the 111 Texas prisons are air conditioned. According to news reports, four Texas inmates died last summer from heat stroke or hyperthermia, and inmate rights advocates believe at least five others died last summer from heat-related causes.  Inmates and advocates in Texas say the overheated conditions violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Iowa operates nine state prisons, and most are air conditioned, said Lettie Prell, the state agency’s research director.  Two state prisons under construction – in Fort Madison and Mitchellville – will both be air conditioned, she said.  A new maximum-security  prison is being built at a cost of $116.9 million in Fort Madison, while the Mitchellville prison is being expanded and modernized at a cost of $52 million.
However, some Iowa prisons don’t have any air conditioning or are only partially air conditioned, Prell said.
The entire Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility – which held 926 inmates on Monday, has no air conditioning, while the Anamosa State Penitentiary has about 800 inmates in housing units without cooling systems. The Iowa Correctional Institution at Mitchellville, which has 547 inmates, has no air conditioning in its older units. In additon, the Clarinda Correctional Facility has 138 prisoners in a minimum-security facility known as the “lodge” which has no cooling system.