Governor Chet Culver’s $750 million bonding proposal is has met serious objections with Democrats in the House and Senate. Legislative Democrats want to change everything in Culver’s proposal from what the money would be used for to the types of bonds that will be used to fund the program.
The news of the dissension from fellow Democrats comes as Culver is on a statewide tour trying to build support for his proposal. Democrat lawmakers are offering a different $700 billion dollar bonding plan that would not provide one dime for bridge and road repairs. Instead their plan calls for: $325 million for flood recovery projects; $200 million for new public buildings, repairs, rural broadband, and rail hubs; and $175 million for ongoing projects.
The legislative Democrats’ proposal couldn’t be more different from Culver’s. Culver’s proposal uses road and bridge repairs to make it an easy sell for lawmakers and Iowans. A majority of Iowans support spending money to make sure state and local roads and bridges are in good shape. To bolster Culver’s plan, he can simply cite the Iowa D.O.T’s Time 21 Study which calls for increased funds.
By removing bonding money for roads and bridges, legislative Democrats are making a radical change to Culver’s proposal. Legislative Democrats want the bulk of the bonding money to go for flood recovery projects. By making flood recovery the centerpiece of their proposal, it will be difficult for Republicans and Culver to oppose their plan. That said, their refusal to do anything about Iowa’s roads and bridges could reignite the debate for an eight-cent increase in the state’s gas tax.
While this is another embarrassment for Governor Culver, it’s also a bad deal for Iowans.
Both Culver and legislative Democrats want to borrow massive amounts of money, which will allow them to spend more money than the state takes in. Legislative Democrats don’t want to commit to paying back the debt with only gambling revenues. They prefer to decide which funds to use each year, which they argue will save the state millions of dollars.
Regardless of what proposal moves forward, Democrats will be saddling future generations with debt that they will have to deal with for years to come. More troubling is the possibility that the Democrats could pass a $700 million bonding proposal AND increase the gas tax.
The possibility of a bonding bill and gas tax increase happening is significant. We already know that some Republicans are open to the idea of increasing the gas tax, and it will also be politically difficult for Republicans to oppose money for flood recovery projects.
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