News Roundup: Branstad locks citizens out

We got some amazing statewide press last night and this morning after nearly 30 CCI leaders from across Iowa (including 2 from Cedar Rapids, 2 from Iowa City, 1 from Bloomfield in SE IA, 1 from Silver City in SW Iowa, 1 from Prescott, 2 from Grinnell, several from Ames, and over a dozen from Des Moines and Central Iowa) attended two economic development and budget hearings at the state capitol yesterday.

Our message was simple: put people first – communities before corporations and people before profits.

Branstad for one clearly didn’t want to hear it because he locked citizens out of his public budget hearing, which backfired because it drew more attention to Branstad’s corporate, anti-democratic agenda than if he had let the process work and the people speak.

Branstad has some bad plans for Iowa, and Iowa CCI Action members are at the forefront of a grassroots, pro-justice, equality, and fairness citizen fightback.

You are making a big impact on our march towards a more just and democratic Iowa. And we’re building to our January 15 “Money Out, People In: Kickoff at the Capitol” when hundreds of everyday people and working families from across Iowa stand up and speak out in a unified voice.


Here’s the full press roundup that gives a glimpse of the incredible “put people first” impact you had yesterday:


Our “official” take on what happened yesterday

Branstad locks citizens out


Top story, 10pm, Channel 13

Public Hearing Citizens Express Concerns


Radio Iowa (statewide radio outlets in rural and urban markets)

Governor’s budget hearing features protest, praise, pleas


Waterloo Cedar Falls-Courier (these two Waterloo-CF stories are probably in other statewide papers like QC Times, CR Gazette, Sioux City Journal, etc)

  • Key Iowa senator questions tax-incentive programs

“The Orascom fertilizer plant should be renamed ‘Ora-scam,’” Deb Bunka, a member of Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, told the committee. “A foreign corporation receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state incentives is a waste of taxpayer money, and we won’t stand for it.”

Bunka was one of a half-dozen members of CCI who spoke at the hearing, all of whom criticized the tax breaks for the fertilizer companies.


  • Caution urged over next state budget

During an afternoon budget hearing that was live-streaming on the governor’s Web site, members of Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) who showed up en masse were detained outside the governor’s Capitol office, although a number of their members were allowed to address Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and two aides while other CCI activists chanted “let us all in” from the hallway under the watchful eye of Capitol security officers.

CCI member Deb Bunka of Ames urged the governor to put people first before corporate creed and business profits and tax cuts.

“Iowa’s budget surplus should be spent on vital public services like education, the environment, health care, infrastructure upgrades to roads and bridges and a fair contract for public employees,” said

We have a budget surplus because of years of spending cuts and now is the time to reinvest in programs and services that everyday people and hard-working families across Iowa depend on,” she said. Bunka also berated the governor for not allowing all the CCI delegation to peacefully attend the hearing or offer comments “mainly if not entirely because they don’t endorse your agenda.”


In the Des Moines Register four times today

  • Branstad hears praise and gripes at public hearing on state budget (This story made page 10A, but it was titled “Lobbyists praise, CCI criticizes” in the print version)

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad heard it all at a public hearing Wednesday concerning next year’s budget.

From a line of pinstriped lobbyists and business association officials, the five-term Republican heard unrestrained praise for his stewardship of the budget, his aggressive economic goals, his prudence and his problem solving.

“We want to thank you, first of all, for turning around the ship of state,” Scott Weiser, a lobbyist speaking on behalf of the trucking company CRST International, told the governor.

From the members of the progressive and boisterous advocacy group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, however, he heard unfettered criticism, accusations that his policies catered to corporate interests while undermining the middle class and suggestions that his handling of the meeting itself was undemocratic.

“Gov. Branstad, your proposals for a flat tax, corporate tax cuts and commercial property taxes put corporate greed ahead of the common good,” said Deborah Bunka, a CCI member from Ames. “That’s not the right way to grow our economy and ensure prosperity for all.”

The hour-long hearing was defined by this dissonant point-counterpoint, while the governor himself sat listening intently but impassively, occasionally leafing through documents before him or leaning to his left to whisper with Director of Management David Roederer.

It also was interrupted, occasionally, by a large crowd of CCI members who were gathered outside the door of governor’s office suite but barred by Iowa State Patrol officials from entering en masse.

The public hearing was part of the administration’s budget-drafting process. All this month, Branstad and other top officials have heard requests from department and agency officials on the coming year budget, and will use the data in drafting a proposal that the governor will present to lawmakers with his Jan. 15 Condition of the State address.

The Legislature, then, will craft the final budget to guide state spending in the fiscal year that begins next July 1.


  • Bailout of fund draws lawmakers’ questions (This made page 8b)

CCI protests fertilizer plants

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement spoke at the meeting to protest the state’s tax-credit-rich incentives for two fertilizer projects, the Iowa Fertilizer Co. in Lee County and CF Industries in Sioux City. Orascom Construction, based in Egypt, plans a $1.4 billion plant in Wever in southeast Iowa. CF Industries plans a $1.7 billion expansion in western Iowa.

CF Industries could snag up to $71.5 million in incentives, mostly tax credits, over four years, and Orascom could get about $250 million over two years.

“The Orascom fertilizer plant deal should be renamed ‘Ora-Scam,’” said Deb Bunka of Ames, who added that state leaders should focus spending on improving education, roads and environmental protection.


  • Member also had an letter to the editor published

The truth about Iowa’s budget surplus is that it has come about largely because of deep spending cuts first put into place by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver and then expanded by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

Now Branstad is using the budget surplus as a political tool, saying we can afford even more tax breaks for big corporations. That’s not right. It’s not right to cut essential spending and then dole out the savings to big business. It’s time we reinvest in vital public services like education, environmental protection, health care, infrastructure and our hardworking state employees. Corporations should be paying more in taxes, not less.

— Megan Felt, Des Moines, via web


  • Finally, Hugh’s blog post, “Voluntary Compliance Doesn’t Work for Factory Farms” got a shoutout on the opinion page as well, just a one sentence blurb that reads:

“Factory farms: Featured writer Hugh Espey lists some solutions that he says will have a big effect on Iowa’s water quality. Read them and offer your reactions at”

The full blog is hosted on the Register’s A Better Iowa site here:




Sign the petition calling on Branstad to push a budget that puts people first and then RSVP to let us know you’ll join us at the statehouse on Jan. 15.







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