Tuesday Reads — Stairway to Breathalyzer

It’s almost prom season. There are so many decisions to make. Who to take, what to wear, should my tie and cummerbund match the color of the school’s alcohol detection wand?

At least that’s the case in Mason City, where high school officials are considering screening hundreds of prom-goers with an “Intoximeter” as they enter the prom, according to the Mason City Globe-Gazette. Magic. Parents can line up and get photos of Johnnie and Jannie blowing on the wand. He passed! She passed!

Have fun.

Mason City High principal Doug Kennedy told the school board that six kids showed up drunk last year. So that means testing for 400 to 600 kids expected to attend the prom on April 25. Three other schools in Mason City’s conference do the same at dances. Mason City used to send chaperones out to sniff for boozers, but they were thwarted by mouthwash etc. Now they’re going high-tech. Kids who get caught will be turned over to police. But it will all be handled discreetly, he said.

Maybe a wand should also be installed at the door of the Statehouse, where lawmakers insist on moving ahead with a gas tax increase, even though it would almost certainly be vetoed by Gov. Culver. The Des Moines Register reports that an 8-cent increase would mean a $40 annual tax hike for a driver that drives 12,000 miles in a car that gets 25 miles to a gallon. Backers say the state’s roads are falling apart and money is needed to fix them.

The Register and The Gazette each note that Culver still says no. And he points to the $358 million in transportation funds Iowa gets from the federal stimulus bill as more evidence a tax hike is not needed.

Also in The Gazette story, Rod Boshart gives an overview of yesterday’s budget developments. Culver says the $1.9 billion Iowa gets from the stimulus does not change his plans to cut the state budget. But across the Capitol, Republican State Auditor Dave Vaudt asks, “What cuts?’

Vaudt, a possible GOP challenger for Culver, says the governor cuts some programs, scoops and shifts money into others and at the bottom line, his massive cuts add up to pretty small potatoes. The auditor also argues the budget is broken not because of a bad economy or natural disasters, but because of overspending.  Guess who gets the blame? Culver’s spokesman chalks Vaudt’s criticism up to his gubernatorial ambitions, although this is the same sort of budget shenanigans Vaudt has been complaining about for years.

The Rebuild Iowa Budget is getting a trimming, so says the governor. Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson says salaries in particular will be “scaled back significantly.”

I sat down with RIO”s executive director, Maj. Gen. Ron Dardis, and have a column this morning on our conversation. He said the office’s original $2 million state budget request will be trimmed to $1.3 million. I’d link to the column, but no one at The Gazette bothered to post it. Maybe later.

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