Governor Culver and Democrat Leaders in the House and Senate say they are close to finding a compromise between their bonding proposals. Both plans call for the state to borrow at least $700 million dollars, but that’s where the similarities end.
Legislative Democrats want to use the bulk of money to pay for flood-related projects, while Culver wants to use some of the money to improve Iowa’s roads and bridges. Republicans, on the other hand, are united in their opposition to both proposals saying that the proposals do little to create jobs, and they saddle future generations of Iowans with massive amounts of debt.
Most of the debate on the bonding proposals has been philosophical thus far. The first phase, $175 million for existing projects, has already passed in the Senate. While there has been strong objection by Republicans to borrowing money for projects like bike trails and highway fences, there hasn’t been much discussion about the projects that Culver and the Democrats have in mind.
TheIowaRepublican.com has obtained a list of projects that was generated by the Iowa Department of Economic Development. It is a survey they sent out to cities, counties, schools, and colleges. The Governor’s office is quick to say that this is only an example of the infrastructure needs in the state, not an official endorsement.
Governor Culver is recommending an eleven-member board to develop rules, review applications, and make grant decisions for other projects. Of the eleven members, five will be members of the public who will provide state-wide representation, and the other six will be directors of various state agencies.
This means that legislators are only being asked to sign off on the state going $750 million dollars into debt. Once they make that decision, they have to trust that the money will be used wisely.
Republicans have good reason to be suspicious of the proposal. Included on the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s list is:
• Tower of Invincibility for Maharishi Vedic City.
• New club house for the Grandview Golf Course in Des Moines.
• The Iowa Transportation Museum in Grinnell.
• Furniture/fixtures/furnishings for the bar at Golf Course in Le Mars.
• Two bronze John Bloom sculptures in DeWitt.
• Synthetic football field for Buena Vista University.
The list is 454 pages long and contains 3834 different project, of which only 410, or 11% of the projects are disaster related. The list is littered with swimming pools, nature trails, picnic shelters, and sidewalks.
If we as a state are going to go in to debt to the tune of $750 million, we better make sure it actually creates permanent, well paying jobs, not temporary construction jobs.
Another aspect of the bill that deserves debate is that it takes local control over infrastructure needs out of the hands of the people and gives it to an eleven member board. So, not only are our legislators only involved in giving the green light to borrow the money, the local taxpayer has no say in whether or not a project is actually needed or not.
There are 292 school projects on the list. Why should a panel of eleven people decide if a school project moves forward or not? Why should someone living in Scott County be asked to pay for a new school for Center Point-Urbana. And furthermore, local option sales taxes were supposed to be used to for local school maintenance and infrastructure, not state-wide bonding.
Governor Culver and legislative Democrats like to talk about how many jobs this $750 million will create. Yesterday, an economics professor at Iowa State University told the Des Moines Register that Culver’s proposal would likely only create 4000 jobs, far less than the 21,000 Culver had estimated.
If the goal of this proposal is to create jobs, then we need to be looking at projects that will create jobs after the initial building process, instead of just looking at the jobs that will be created to construct the projects themselves. Where are the big ideas? Where are the visionaries? As it stands in its current form, this program is nothing but a compilation of government wish lists. There is nothing in the proposal that will create jobs, save rural communities, or keep our college graduates in the state.
This is just another massive pork project that is about to be passed under the guise of flood relief, jobs, and economic stimulus.
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