Culver and the penny

Governor Chet Culver spoke Wednesday morning to about two dozen members of the Iowa State Education Association.  The topic of the local option sales tax came up during Culver’s discussion with the group.  Culver indicated he was "open" to using the sales tax revenue on teacher salaries and he urged the ISEA members to contact their legislators and lobby on the issue.  Local option sales taxes are currently reserved for school infrastructure projects. Voters in each of Iowa’s 99 counties have approved a local option sales tax for schools, but for a duration of 10 years.  Legislators are mulling a bill which would make permanent the penny sales tax — statewide — and distribute the money back to schools on a per pupil basis.

After his meeting with the ISEA, Culver spoke briefly with reporters from Radio Iowa and The Des Moines Register. (FYI:  School Infrastructure Local Option is shortened to "SILO" among statehouse regulars)

Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson:  "I don’t remember what you’ve said about SILO.  Do you think there should be a statewide sales tax collected for school infrastructure?"

Culver:  "I’ve said I’m open to discussing this with the legislature and figuring out if this is the right time so I’ve encouraged debate.  I’ve encouraged discussion.  I’m seeking, you know, input from educators, from legislators.  I do, my goal, if you will, is to make sure we’re giving equal educational opportunities to young people regardless of where they live and the fact is we do have some concerns about that and it’s historically always been a challenge so if SILO can help us address it, you know, that might be another reason to try to do it."

Henderson:  "Do you have concerns about how broadly that money should be used?  Should it be narrow or what do you think the money should be used for because that’s part of the discussion?"

Culver:  "Well, yeah.  It’s not clear. We’ve got a lot of competing ideas on how to best utilize those additional resources.  The other complicating factor is you have counties like Johnson County, for example, that just passed this and they’ve already kind of planned on how they want to use it and they’ve budgeted and this could have an impact on those plans so, but I still think it’s possible that we could arrive at some consensus before the end of the session."

The Des Moines Register’s Megan Hawkins:  "I just want to go back to that sales tax issue real quick.  You kind of hit on this.  Would you support changing it from just being used for facilities to actually pay for staff?"

Culver:  "Um, you know, it’s too early to tell you that.  Again, if we can work on this in a bipartisan way and get some consensus I’m confident we can use this as a vehicle to address a lot of different needs and that might be one of them."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.