In his 2008 Condition of the State speech, Governor Culver told the legislators who were gathered in the House chamber and the people watching at home that one of his legislative priorities was to expand Iowa’s bottle bill. Iowa’s original bottle bill was signed in to law by Republican Governor Bob Ray in 1978.
Culver’s signature piece of legislation in 2008 didn’t go anywhere.
This past January, Governor Culver once again gave his Condition of the State speech. This time, Governor Culver’s signature piece of legislation was a $750 million dollar bonding proposal, which he calls I-Jobs. At the time, Culver claimed that his proposal would create almost 40,000 jobs. A short time later, an Iowa State University economist said that Culver’s bonding proposal would only create 4,000 jobs. Iowa Republicans believe that those lower numbers are probably inflated.
With House and Senate Democrats now saying the votes don’t exist to pass his proposal, it seem that Culver’s signature piece of legislation this year isn’t going anywhere either.
Culver is firm in his support of his $750 million bonding proposal, but Democrat legislators quickly backed away from the proposal after the Des Moines Register released a poll showing that 71% of Iowans oppose the idea. Culver not only unveiled his bonding proposal in his widely publicized Condition of the State speech, he also spent weeks traveling across the state promoting it. If Culver is unable to pass some form of his bonding proposal, it will be a huge embarrassment to him as he begins his reelection campaign.
Even more troubling for Culver is that he is not even respected by the Democrat leaders in the Iowa House or Senate. Just yesterday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the Des Moines Register, “We’re waiting for the governor to engage in negotiations; he’s not negotiating with us on anything at this point.” Needles to say, it is fairly unusual for a legislative leader to publically disparage a Governor from his own political party.
Culver’s Press Secretary, Troy Price, quickly said that Rep. McCarthy’s claim that the Governor is not negotiating with House and Senate leaders is untrue. However, Price did indicate that Culver still wants to see his bonding proposal passed.
“While there is room to negotiate, we cannot settle for a bill that won’t put people to work, allow us to assist flood victims, and help us rebuild flood-damaged homes, businesses, roads and bridges,” Price said.
The bad blood between legislative leaders and Governor Culver began last year when Culver vetoed one of the key legislative priorities of the labor unions which dealt with open-scope bargaining. The unions, legislators, and the Governor all have gone out of their way to say that they have put any hard feelings behind them. Yet, Democrats who control the Iowa House and Senate with sizable majorities have failed to pass both of Culver’s legislative priorities and have now resorted to publically criticizing the Governor.
Though House Democrats have had their own problems with getting members in their caucus to support their legislative agenda, it seems as if they are beginning to distance themselves from Governor Culver. Legislators are already on the hook for out-of-control spending and various tax and fee increases. They also now have to deal with the same-sex marriage issue. Adding Culver’s unpopular bonding proposal would be dangerous given that House Democrats only won their majority by a total of approximately 600 votes in a very Democratic year.
At a time when Iowa is recovering from the largest natural disaster in its history, suffering from huge budget deficits, and dealing with an unemployment rate at a 20-year high, Iowans are looking to their Governor for leadership.
But, if Governor Culver can’t lead members of his own party, how can we expect his to lead the entire state?
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