Governor Chet Culver recently stated that the primary function of state government is to “incarcerate, educate, and medicate.” While Culver’s new slogan isn’t going to find its way on the billboards welcoming travelers to Iowa, it does provide Iowans with a glimpse of what the Governor believes are priorities for the state and his administration.
At a time when Governor Culver and the legislature have to come to terms with a billion dollar budget gap next year, having clear priorities will help determine what areas of state government need to be protected and which areas can be cut. The cuts that are likely to occur during the upcoming legislative session will be painful as they come after Culver’s ten percent across the board cuts in last year’s budget.
Culver’s new found priorities for state government don’t necessarily fit well with his previous three years as Governor. If the state’s priorities are to incarcerate, educate, and medicate then why did he insist on creating a multi-million-dollar Power Fund?
Last summer, Culver’s Power Fund was scrutinized for spending $50 million dollars to create around 100 jobs. The Culver administration was unable to inform Iowans about how many jobs have actually been created through the program, but instead of scaling back the program when the state got into spending problems, they continued to pump money into the program. Again, if the priority is to incarcerate, educate, and medicate, then why not cut the Power Fund in order to protect the state’s priorities?
Governor Culver also lobbied the legislature to borrow $890 million for I-Jobs, his second main initiative during his first term. While Culver’s I-Jobs proposal was supposed to help generate jobs, it’s done nothing to create any permanent jobs. Instead, it’s helped to pay for government infrastructure projects and created temporary construction jobs.
During his first term, Governor Culver has ignored the small and middle sized businesses which are the backbone of Iowa’s economy. While Culver is traveling out of state trying to woo companies like Microsoft and IBM to build facilities in Iowa, he has basically told Iowa employers that the jobs they create are not important. As a result, we have seen Iowa’s unemployment rise from 3.7 percent when he was elected of the 6.7 percent this year.
The forecast for Iowa business owners isn’t likely to get better either. Governor Culver has made it known that he wants to reevaluate all of Iowa’s tax credits following the Iowa Film Tax Credit fiasco. With Governor Culver and his Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate needing to find a billion dollars to balance next year’s budget, it’s likely that the tax credits that are available for companies to expand or modernize their facilities or to help with research and development will be soon be gone.
Governor Culver is sending Iowans mixed signals. On one hand, Culver says the role of the state is to incarcerate, educate, and medicate, but his two initiatives as Governor have been to try pump over a billion dollars into the Iowa economy in hopes of creating jobs. Not only has Culver failed to create any jobs, he has also been willing to cut the things which he says are his priorities, schools and prisons, by 10 percent.
With so many Iowans out of work and a billion dollar budget gap looming in the shadows, Governor Culver should turn to the thousands of Iowa business owners and ask them what they need to be able to grow and prosper. It is likely they will not ask for much. Many would probably just request a competitive tax environment and less regulation from the state. Yet, Culver has shown no interest in doing any of that. Instead, they will likely see the incentives that they currently have evaporate, while Governor Culver continues to dole out millions of dollars to huge out-of-state corporations who promise the moon.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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