Friday Reads — Quests for Cash

Basketball fans have NCAA madness, but state budget watchers have been waiting for this week, too. They’ve been filing out their brackets for today’s big Revenue Estimating Conference meeting at the Statehouse.

I hope they used red ink.

Indeed, the all powerful cadre of tax collection estimators and economic tea leaf readers will convene to decide how far tax revenues have plunged. The Register notes that most experts are expecting some more bad news that may force politicians to find more budget cuts. Federal stimulus money will help soften the blow, but it won’t fill all the gaps.

Elsewhere at the Statehouse, unconventional efforts to raise revenue have been less successful.

Gov. Chet Culver was still answering questions Thursday about his administration’s ill-fated plan to ask health care groups to pony up for the cost of a White House-sponsored  health care forum next week. Donors were asked for $5,000 to get a seat, which raised eyebrows very high considering that some of the groups have Statehouse bills that Culver will be considering. The White House stepped in and said no to the donation idea.

According to Radio Iowa, Culver says his staff did nothing wrong. Still, The Register reports that some lobbyists and lawmakers were surprised.

Then there was the head-shaking story of the Cedar Rapids man arrested at the Capitol and charged with digging into purses that didn’t belong to him. Marshall Clemons, 38, was at the Statehouse with a group lobbying for the Service Employees International Union. Covering Iowa Politics/The Gazette has the odd details.

One is that Clemons is the school janitor who was invited to the Democratic National Conventionby Joe Biden after the VP spent a “walk a day in my shoes” pre-caucus campaign event with Clemons at his job. (Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson spotted the link above)

But some people do have adequate cash flow, like Minnesota Vikings star RB Adrian Peterson. According to the Mason City Globe-Gazette, Peterson has told officials at North Iowa Area Community College that he’s willing to bankroll the college football team next season. School officials announced plans earlier this week to drop the program due to budget cuts.

School officials haven’t reacted to the proposal yet.

The Sioux City Journal carries front page news that South Dakota’s governor has signed a tougher indoor smoking ban in that state, starting July 1. Motel rooms, some cigar bars and smoke shops are exempted. But gambling halls, video lottery joints and bars are not.

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