MASON CITY | For 9-year-old Elliot Burgos and his parents, every moment is precious.
In April 2016, Elliot didn't feel well and developed an illness that lingered. His parents, Jonathan and Shanda, decided to take him to Mayo Clinic to be examined.
Their lives have never been the same.
Elliot was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of terminal pediatric brain tumor that spreads down the spine.
"He was constipated. I was hoping they would give him something to clean him out and that would take care of it," his mother said. "Instead, my world stopped."
Since that time, Elliot's parents and his three brothers, Cameron, 18; Caleb, 16; and Samuel, 8, have devoted their lives to his comfort and have poured out their love to him.
And so have thousands of others, from Mason City, North Iowa and throughout the country.
"It's been amazing," his mother said. "It's heart-warming."
A "Prayers for Elliot" Facebook page now has nearly 5,400 likes.
The Burgos family has received donations, prayers and messages of support from all over the U.S.
"It's hard to believe how far Elliot's story has reached out," Shanda said. She said she has had requests from many people out of state for T-shirts, bracelets and decals left over from various benefits for Elliot.
The boy, who is at home, has "good days and rough days," she said. When visited by a Globe Gazette reporter and photographer Tuesday, he raised his hand and gave a little wave.
Chemotherapy treatment has been halted, and his family has set up hospice care and made funeral arrangements. They also want their son to be an organ donor.
"I wasn't sure if he could be with the treatment he has had but it sounds like it's a possibility. Hopefully if we have to lose our baby, we can save someone else's," his family wrote in a post on the Prayers for Elliot page.
Elliot's days are filled with many well-wishers. Last week, Christmas carolers arranged by teachers at Harding Elementary School, where Elliot was a student, brought lively Christmas cheer to him and his family.
On Monday, Worth County sheriff's deputies paid a visit and brought along their police dog, to Elliot's delight. He has also had visitors from the Mason City Police Department and Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Office.
"He is really into police and the military," his mother said. "We even bought him a police dog, which he loves."
The community support has been overwhelming as Elliot has been embraced by young and old alike, his parents said.
Last year, a group of Newman High School students held a pie-in-the-face fundraiser for him.
Another touching moment came in September at a Mason City-Fort Dodge high school football game when fans on both sides of the field wore yellow apparel, Elliot's favorite color and the color for childhood cancer awareness. Mason City students had the idea and coordinated it with Fort Dodge High School to make it happen.
In addition to ongoing medical expenses, the family has to deal with transportation and lodging costs when they've had to travel to doctors' appointments and with keeping up with everyday costs of their household.
"While all of this is happening, the rest of the world keeps going," Shanda said. "The world doesn't stop because of us. We still have bills to pay."
Jonathan and Shanda said they have received great support from their respective employers, Henkel Construction and Kraft. They have both been out of work for long periods since Elliot was diagnosed.
"They (employers) have been extremely supportive and understanding," Jonathan said.
The CENT Credit Union has set up an account for well wishers to help the Burgos family with their mountain of medical and medical-related expenses.
"Elliot's a great kid and it's a great cause," said Matthew Chizek, CENT president.
Checks can be made out to the Elliot Burgos Fund or "Prayers for Elliot" and sent or brought into either of the CENT offices at 1341 Sixth St. S.W. or 12 N. Delaware Ave.
People also can make donations through an Angels for Elliot Facebook page, in which the donations are deposited automatically into the CENT Credit Union account.
The family has tried to provide the community with updates on Elliot's condition and photos of his most recent visitors on their Facebook page.
Through their ordeal, Jonathan and Shanda have relied on their faith to see them through. "It has," Jonathan said.
"Even in our bad times, God is still looking out for us," Shanda said.
DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she “completely” disagrees with U.S. Rep. Steve King on comments he made recently about diversity, but she plans to keep him as a co-chairman of her 2018 gubernatorial campaign while staying focused on the issues Iowans see important to the state’s future.
King, a Kiron Republican who is Iowa’s 4th District congressman, drew criticism last week when he twice declared that diversity is not an American strength and endorsed a European leader's view that “mixing cultures” leads to a lower quality of life.
King, a conservative Republican and leading critic of U.S. immigration policies, also tweeted, “Assimilation has become a dirty word to the multiculturalist Left. Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength.”
On Tuesday, Reynolds distanced herself from King’s remarks, telling Statehouse reporters during her weekly news conference: “I’m not going to get involved in the Twitter war; I’m not going to participate in that.”
Reynolds said she has a number of statewide and county co-chairs associated with her 2018 election bid, and she is certain she does not agree with them on every topic.
“I’m not going to agree with everything that they have to say, and I can certainly make it known when I don’t agree with a comment that they make. But I also want to be able to work with them on really important issues for Iowa,” Reynolds said in response to questions about King’s social media posts.
“I strongly, strongly disagree with that statement. I don’t believe that that’s reflective of Iowans, I don’t believe that that is reflective of Iowa values. I believe that diversity has made this state and this country stronger, and so I completely disagree with what he said,” the governor told reporters.
But instead of focusing on divisive issues, Reynolds told reporters, “we need to focus on what we need to focus on, and we need to make sure that we get tax reform done at the federal level so we can create a simpler, fairer tax environment that inspires and doesn’t inhibit growth — that’s what I’m focused on.”
Reynolds, who became governor last May when Terry Branstad vacated the post to become U.S. ambassador to China, faces challenges from two Republicans and a number of Democratic, independent and third-party candidates as she gears up for her first statewide bid as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018.
DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers soon will debate whether to lower some state taxes.
That debate will likely include warning calls of attention to a nearby state and the rough road it has traveled since enacting tax cuts five years ago.
“I would like to work together with Republicans on true tax reform,” said Pam Jochum, the top Democrat on the Iowa Senate tax policy committee. “However, I worry that legislative Republicans are more interested in repeating the failed tax experiment that took place in Kansas.”
That is the rallying cry across the country for Democrats who warn against tax cuts they think go too far.
Kansas Republicans in 2012 reduced income taxes across the board and exempted many business owners from paying income tax.
The Kansas plan, spearheaded by Gov. Sam Brownback, was designed to stimulate economic growth and increase wages. But experts said it did neither, and it has left a hole in the state budget — almost $280 million.
So disappointing were the results that the Republican-led Kansas Legislature this year voted to roll back some of the cuts by increasing some income taxes and restoring some of the business income taxes. The Legislature even voted by two-thirds majority to over-rule Brownback’s veto of the rollback.
Are Iowa Democrats right to sound the Kansas alarm? While Iowa Republicans have made clear their hope to enact some sort of tax policy changes in the legislative session that starts next month, they have not yet released a plan. So there is no way yet to compare Iowa Republicans’ tax plan with Kansas tax cuts.
But experts in Kansas said warnings about the state’s tax cuts are legitimate.
“If a state wants to try this, I would say be ready for this not to work,” said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at Kansas University. “And if it doesn’t work and you end up in the same place Kansas did, you have to think about what do you want to cut.”
Kansas’ 2012 tax cuts were significant in two ways:
At that time, Brownback said the cuts would spur economic growth, that individual Kansans with more money in their pockets would spend it in the state economy, and business owners with a lighter tax bill would reinvest the money in their businesses and their employees. Businesses and individuals would flock to Kansas, the governor promised.
“My faith is in the people of Kansas, not its government,” Brownback said in 2012 when the cuts were enacted, according to the Kansas City Star.
None of what was promised came to fruition.
Job growth has lagged behind neighboring states and gross domestic product growth has trailed the national average, according to state data. New businesses were not created; instead, many businesses changed their classification in order to take advantage of the new tax exemption, experts said. And the state budget was left with a $280 million deficit.
“If the objective is to grow the state’s economy, then this is not the way to do it,” said Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs in Kansas University’s business school. “If that’s the goal in Iowa, then the lesson learned in Kansas is that it didn’t work. In fact, it created a significant budget gap that we will be paying off for years.”
The mistake Kansas made, according to one conservative advocacy group, is that the state did not also reduce spending at the same time it lowered taxes.
“Kansas underscores the importance of controlling government spending, which they failed to do badly,” said Drew Klein, Iowa director for Americans for Prosperity. “The economy undoubtedly improved — and revenue did grow — but their inability to control spending is what crushed their budget.”
Experts in Kansas said that is not true. They said the state did reduce spending, just not enough to cover the cost of the tax cuts.
“That’s absolutely false. That’s a lie that’s been promoted by certain groups,” said Ken Kriz, a public affairs professor at Wichita State University.
Spending was cut “substantially” across the board and legislators tried to find ways to be more efficient with state spending, Miller said.
“This argument that Kansas just didn’t cut (spending), it sounds nice but it makes no sense because we did. And politics got in the way,” Miller said. “I think it’s just a way to rationalize away the failure of the policy here, rather than to really accept that maybe it didn’t work.”
“Pretty much everything in the budget took a substantial hit,” Miller added. “K-12 education, higher education, transportation, things like fixing roads, the foster care system. Practically everything took some kind of cut.”
Klein said North Carolina may provide a better model for tax cuts. Klein said while the state lowered taxes several times over the past five years, it also kept spending growth below the rate of population growth and inflation.
“Not only has their economy boomed, but they’ve experienced several surpluses as well,” Klein said.
North Carolina Republicans since 2011 have cut the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates, eliminated the estate tax, and reduced or eliminated other business taxes, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Since then, state revenue generally has come in ahead of projections and the state has added to its budget surplus. But state economists cast doubt on whether the economic growth was a direct result of the tax cuts, the Citizen-Times reported.
“If you claim that North Carolina cut taxes and got more revenue out of it, you're looking at the wrong math,” one economist told the Citizen-Times.
What remains unknown is what type of tax cuts Iowa Republicans will propose. State GOP leaders have not yet made public any plans, in part because they are waiting on potential Congressional action on federal tax policy changes.
One key Iowa state lawmaker said the Democrats’ warnings of a Kansas repeat are unfounded.
“Frankly, I don’t know what happened in Kansas. I understand they made some pretty dramatic tax cuts and later on ran out of revenue. We’re not going to do that,” said Guy Vander Linden, chairman of the Iowa House’s tax policy committee. “We’re not going to make severe cuts to revenue without understanding what we’re doing.”
A challenge facing Iowa Republicans is the state of the state’s budget. Because revenue is expected to come in below projections, the state’s nonpartisan revenue estimating panel on Monday estimated lawmakers will have to cut between $45 million and $90 million in state spending for the budget year already underway. That comes after the state was forced to make more than $250 million in budget adjustments during the previous year.
Any tax policy changes that create less revenue to the state will make crafting future state budgets more difficult.
“Spending and revenue go hand-in-hand and we’re obsessed with not spending more than we take in,” Vander Linden said. “It’s a balancing act. We’re going to have to see where we are.”
Iowa Republicans have made tax policy changes a top priority since gaining complete lawmaking control after the 2016 elections. Their pitch likely will come during the 2018 legislative session that starts Jan. 8. Only then will it be known how much the Iowa Republicans’ plan resembles the so-called Kansas experiment.
“There are certainly lessons to be learned from other states around the country, but Iowa will have its own long-term economic challenges if we fail to do something about our uncompetitive tax environment,” Klein said.
Vander Linden also said Iowa must act on tax policy changes, and cast his own cautionary tale of a neighboring state: Illinois, which after years under Democratic control has lost the most residents in the nation for three consecutive years amid complaints of a state budget mess and high property taxes, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“They can throw Kansas in our way, but they seem to forget about our neighbors to the east,” Vander Linden said. “It can go wrong in both ways.”
A woman who recently moved to Iowa with her children is hoping the Christmas Cheer Fund can provide her family establish a foundation this holiday season.
The 24-year-old woman and her three children between 2 and 5 years old moved to Mason City in November and are staying with relatives.
“This is only our third week here, and I would be very grateful if you can help with anything,” she wrote in her Cheer Fund application. “We do not have much.”
If the applicant receives assistance from the Cheer Fund this year, she said she’d use it for her children.
Since the Cheer Fund began in 1927, more than $3 million has been raised.
This year’s goal is $125,000.
The Christmas Cheer Fund was established by Globe Gazette Publisher Lee Loomis in 1927 so every child could have a present on Christmas morning. In the years since it has come to mean a little help at Christmastime to people of all ages.
Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA 50402-0271.
Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. The Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account.
Those in need can apply for help from the Cheer Fund at the Globe Gazette between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Applicants must use the 2017 request form. Applications will close at noon Dec. 21.
TUESDAY’S TOTAL: $2,255.25
TO-DATE TOTAL: $54,963.42
TO REACH GOAL: $70,036.58
With love, John, Becky, Ellene, Ronda, Alex and families, in memory of our mom and dad, Ardyce Nodtvedt and Harold Nodtvedt, $25
With love from Colton Ray and Carlie Renae Shook, in memory of Grandma Ardyce Nodtvedt, $25
Greg, in memory of Judy, $25
Anita Sullivan, $100
Clear Lake Lioness Club, $50
Erin and Gary Hanson, in memory of Mary Hanson, Robert Hanson and Ruth and Duane Hanson, $100
Sharon and Alan Steckman, $200
Jim and Vinny Patrick, in memory of friends and loved ones who are gone but not forgotten. Merry Christmas to all, $25
Dorothy Harman and family, in memory of Bob Harman and our children Kathy, Craig and Brad Harman, $200
Dick and Bonna, $50
His family, in loving memory of Harvey Anderson, $100
L S M, in memory of relatives and friends, $100
Brad and Cathy Isaak, in memory of Jan McLinn and Karl Langhart, $100
Bob and Bren, in memory of Steve, $25
Odella Vosburgh, in loving memory of my husband Chuck Vosburgh and all loved ones, $25
Robert and Toni Erickson, $200
Trinity Lutheran Church Women of Trinity, $300
Willis Haddix, Ruth Jamer, Ruth Haddix and Marilyn Brown, in memory of Ruth N. Haddix and Jean Matthews, $25
Randy and Beth Johnson, in memory of Dorance and Marilyn Rosendahl and Wallace Johnson, $200
Arlo and Shirly Movick, $30
Gene and Charlene Ostmo, $25
Exchange Club of Mason City, $250
Loretta and Gene Halfman, in memory of loved ones, $50