In an exercise that has not been replicated much, as yet, on the congressional level, some Quad-Citians managed to reduce the federal deficit by trillions of dollars on Wednesday.
The budget exercise, "Your First Budget" was part of the Quad-Cities New Ideas Forum at the Rogalski Center ballroom on the St. Ambrose University campus, Davenport.
The exercise was directed by Ashley Hunt, Des Moines. Hunt is field coordinator for First Budget, an initiative of the Concord Coalition and the Campaign to Fix the Debt, both based in Washington, D.C.
Hunt gave a quick overview of what she called, wryly, the "fun and sexy" federal budget. Hunt's group, however, hopes that an informed electorate will ask candidates about what they would do in their "first budget."
The bottom line, she said, is to learn what would be a candidate's budget, if elected president. The eventual winner has to submit a budget in the first 100 days of office, she said.
A budget worksheet, as well as a handout of what each budget area includes, was given to participants. About 50 people divided up, and there was an effort to mix ages, party affiliations and careers at the tables.
Austin Bird, government and community relations coordinator with Genesis Health System, coordinated a table that included Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba. This group managed to cut the deficit by $2.136 trillion over 10 years, basically by instituting comprehensive tax reform and by agreeing to increase the maximum taxable earnings cap for the Social Security payroll tax.
A table that included former Davenport Alderman Bill Lynn and current Alderman Gene Meeker argued at length on the category of health care. One topic fully discussed was whether to limit punitive damage awards in medical malpractice lawsuits.
According to Hunt, the budget exercise usually takes about two hours but was limited to an hour at the New Ideas Forum.
Participants seemed to appreciate the event. Nicholas Broughton, an attorney from Rock Island, said it was useful to see the federal budget laid out on paper.
"We also had decent discussions in our group," he added.
Tara Barney, president and CEO at the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, noted the need for an educated community that is deep into a "robust caucus season."
Information on topics important locally and on the national stage are helpful when presented in a neutral environment, Barney said. This exposes more people to good information and leads to a more informed electorate.
The Quad-Cities New Ideas Forum is sponsored by St. Ambrose University, the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Quad-City Times.