Governor Terry Branstad is defending the tens of millions of dollars in state and local government incentives promised last week to an Egyptian company that plans to build a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa.
“I don’t think we ought to be discriminating against (foreign) companies first and foremost because we are in a world economy and we are marketing a lot of products we make here in Iowa all over the world,” Branstad says.
The governor says Iowa farmers will be the biggest beneficiaries of the deal, as they’ll be able to buy cheaper fertilizer from the plant in Lee County.
The State of Iowa offered Egypt-based Orascom $25 million in incentives, only to be out-bid by Illinois. In the end, the State of Iowa offered the company over $100 million in incentives, mostly in the form of tax credits and rebates, and Lee County officials offered another $130 million in local tax breaks.
“This has broad-based, bipartisan support,” Branstad says. “It’s got support of the agriculture community, the business community and it’s got broad-based support in the legislature. Lee County is not exactly a Republican strong-hold, you know, but nevertheless it’s got great support right there in Lee County as well which has some of the highest unemployment in our state.”
Five days after making the announcement public, Iowa’s Republican governor was still giddy at landing the deal.
“Illinois is the loser and Iowa’s the winner,” Branstad said, laughing. “That’s the point. Illinois is the loser and they’re the loser not just because of the incentives. They’re the loser because of the way they have mismanaged their state’s finances for too long.”
At his weekly news conference this morning (find the audio here), Branstad quoted Indiana’s Republican governor who has said being neighbors to Illinois is like “living next to The Simpsons.” Branstad also stressed that about half of the promised state incentives to the Egyptian company will only be extended if the legislature fails to embrace his proposed reduction in corporate taxes and commercial property taxes. If the legislature fails to do so, Branstad has promised the company $50 million in state tax credits.