State officials believe about $1.9 billion is destined for Iowa over the next three years once President Obama signs the federal economic stimulus package into law tomorrow.
Governor Culver has appointed a "working group" of people from a dozen state agencies to identify the strings that are attached, as states will be competing against one another for some of the money. "We’re quickly trying to get our arms around this legislation so we can come out ahead of most states," Culver says.
According to the governor, over half a billion dollars can be used for health care programs in Iowa, namely Medicaid. Another $387 million is reserved for education, although state officials aren’t yet sure of how that money may be used. Finally, there’s more than $350 million set aside for transportation projects. "Which is about as much as we spend on an annual basis on road and bridge projects," the governor says.
Culver plans to talk privately this week with legislators to repeat his opposition to raising the state gas tax as a way to finance more road construction and maintenance. "I think that would be a mistake to do at this time, especially in light of the fact that we just received $358 milion for road and bridge projects," Culver says. "I think they’re going to have a very tough time making the case to average Iowans…that we need to raise the gas tax right now."