A number of rural Democrats in the Iowa House of Representatives refuse to support Governor Chet Culver’s $750 million bonding proposal. The proposal is Governor Culver’s signature piece of legislation, which he announced during his Condition of the State speech in January, and for which he campaigned across the state advocating for its passage last month.
Speaker of the Iowa House Pat Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal support the concept, but Republicans and 71% of the people the Des Moines Register polled on the issue think it’s a bad idea. Now, with a handful of Democrat legislators refusing to support it, Culver’s bonding proposal may suffer the same fate as the prevailing wage bill did in the beginning of the session – an embarrassing defeat.
In an article by James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Rep. Dick Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids) said Culver’s 20-year $750 million plan “will not pass without bipartisan support.” Rep. Nate Willems (D-Lisbon) said that opposition is coming from Democrats in rural districts “who are not predisposed to bonding.” Both Willems and Taylor indicated that they were looking to Republican representatives from Linn County to help find the votes needed to pass the proposal.
Finding bipartisan support for Culver’s bonding proposal will be difficult, but not impossible. Culver and the Democrats have pledged to use some of the borrowed money to help with flood recovery, which would make it difficult for a Linn County legislator to vote against. It is obvious that both Rep. Taylor and Rep. Willems are trying to paint freshmen Linn County legislators Rep. Renee Schulte and Rep. Nick Wagner into a corner.
The problem with such a strategy is that the public is very weary of borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars for public works projects that will not create any permanent jobs. Speaker Murphy and Majority Leader Gronstal also have not created any good will with the minority party by not allowing a vote on a marriage amendment to the Iowa Constitution following the Supreme Count’s recent opinion on the issue.
It is very telling when legislative Democrats, with their six seat majority in the House and their seven seat majority in the Senate, go to the media and say they need bipartisan support to pass a piece of legislation. That means either that piece of legislation is so radical that their own caucus refuses to support it, or they know that passing it on a party-line vote could come back to haunt them on Election Day.
This is the second time this legislative session that Iowa Democrats have stated they need bipartisan support to pass a bill. The first was their proposed eight-cent increase to the gas tax, which was only supported by 13% of the people polled by the Des Moines Register.
If Iowa Democrats are interested in passing bipartisan legislation, they should bring up the marriage amendment for a vote in the House and Senate. Unlike the gas tax, federal deductibility, prevailing wage, doctor shopping, and Culver’s bonding proposal, there are plenty of votes to pass a marriage amendment. Democrats know this, and that’s why Speaker Murphy and Majority Leader Gronstal will not let that bill see the light of day.
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