I’m an ideas guy. I enjoy brainstorming how to make things better, processes better, etc. I enjoy strategic planning with organizations I’ve served. Sick I know. That was one of the reasons I was looking forward to meeting with Jonathan Narcisse who is a former Des Moines School Board member, former Democratic Party County Co-Chair (when he was a young man), political activist, publisher, founder of An Iowa Worth Fighting For, and most importantly a brother in Christ.
He’s a Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat, but really an independent at heart. He’s also conservative. Scratching your head yet? Braving the snowy roads & traffic was worth the time spent with him. Then the unthinkable happened at the end of our time together. I discovered that I didn’t get a lick of it recorded. Man!!!!! Jonathan was very gracious and said that has happened at other times and that, “sometimes God isn’t ready for it to be recorded yet.”
He has been going around the state participating in solution-based debates with Republican Gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants. We sat down to discuss An Iowa Worth Fighting For a ten step vision plan for 21st century government. On the material that he handed me a well-known quote from Thomas Paine was prominently displayed, “That government is best which governs least.” Narcisse wants government less involved in our daily lives. He wants it to be smaller, and he’s a registered Democrat (still scratching my head), he notes very few Republicans really desire that.
He said that every Iowan ought to have an intimate knowledge of the 10th Amendment which reads:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Government should be reduced to where the people truly have the power, with smaller governments from the federal level on down to employ more local control. He notes that the Republican Party of Iowa are so focused on state and federal races that they have largely been uncompetitive with municipal, county and school board elections, particularly our urban communities.
The overall core governance principles of this plan are:
Principle One: Is it necessary for government to do this?
Principle Two: Is it outcome and results oriented?
Principle Three: Is it accountable to the public?
Principle Four: Is it competently staffed, efficient and effective?
Principle Five: Is it responsive but not reactionary?
Principle Six: Is it impartial and consistent?
Overarching Principle: Government must be braced by personal responsibility.
We were able to discuss three of the 10 steps of An Iowa Worth Fighting For Plan:
Reorganize, Reduce and Reprioritize State Government
Narcisse notes that state government spending and growth has occurred under the Branstad administration where he reduced the flow chart, but not the size of government. Vilsack further reduced the flow chart, but added 400 employees. Culver has grown the state government by approximately 1,700 employees. Narcisse claims that the State of Iowa is now the largest employer in the state.
We currently have over 2 dozen state agencies, Narcisse propose reducing that number to 12 or fewer. Consolidate agencies that have a similar purpose. Eliminate departments/bureaus based on the principles above. Look at each program the state offers to determine whether it is a short term/temporary program (Recovery Iowa), if it is a program that should end in 3-4 years, or if it is something that should be an ongoing program.
He says that Republicans talk about tax cuts, but don’t seem to be willing to discuss spending cuts and comprehensive government reform (at least what it will take to truly make a difference). Narcisse contends that we must cut spending before we can even consider tax reform.
Education Reform & Accountability
A radical overhaul is needed. Clean house at the Iowa Department of Education. It would no longer function in a policy role, but rather focus on expenditures of taxpayer money to schools and providing accountability for the results. AEAs would focus on providing technical support and administrative services (doing the job of superintendents for small school districts that can’t justify having their own). He says, “Iowa doesn’t need 400 education bureaucracies when it can get by with 2 dozen.
Give communities the option to consolidate, maintain their current status, or emancipate their schools and return them to their local communities. Transfer budget authority to the building level rather than the bureaucracy level whereby teachers’ pay can be increased because more money is spent in the classroom rather than on administration.
Let the money follow the student whether for public or independent (faith-based or non) schools. With home education, increase tax credits. Allow groups to create educational cooperatives (think charter schools) that would focus on fine arts, business, science, languages, etc. because dollars state and local funding would go with students and families who choose those options.
Eliminate corporate income tax. In year one have a zero tax option which will essentially mean that for every dollar put back into their Iowa-based operation they have a dollar tax reduction. They can do this until their tax liability is zero. By year four the tax should be eliminated.
Reduce property taxes – lock in 1% rate on the purchase price of property for the first 10 years, and then reassess. Then have a structured increase over the next five years, and then lock it in again. Narcisse advocates the repeal of the permanent penny tax and for the restoration of the local option tax vote. A fairer, flatter state income tax structure is needed. Then also tackle the sales tax, roll back the permanent state sales tax to four percent.
But this can only be done by cutting spending first.
I think Jonathan has a lot of great ideas of which I barely scratched the surface. The question is how to get these implemented. We obviously need a change in 2010 in executive and legislative branches. It’ll take strong leadership, something Narcisse believes is lacking among the current field of candidates and with the current governor. Another item to consider is whether or not the courts would allow this to be implemented, and that is an entirely different blog post topic right there.
I wrapped up asking him about the rumors floating around that he’ll run for governor. He said, “that’s an idea worth considering.” So perhaps we’ll see an independent gubernatorial candidate in the near future.