State Senators who do not support a new state economic development fund will be getting letters and personal visits from business and ag leaders who support the so-called “Iowa Values Fund.” Among those exerting the pressure is former Governor Robert Ray who has lent his voice to radio ads supporting the fund, radio ads paid for by a coalition of business and ag groups like John Deere and the Iowa Association of Business and IndustryRay says it shows people in the state “are willing to step forward and say ‘Let’s go.'” Ray says it’s time for Senators to act. Ray says partisan politics is a great thing, but there comes a time when you have to say it’s time to get down to what makes sense and do it. State Senator Kitty Rehberg of Rowley is one of the Republicans who has opposed the economic development initiative, and she’s been asked to reserve a couple of hours on Wednesday to meet with members of the coalition Ray leads to talk about the issue. She doesn’t appreciate the arm-twisting from people she doesn’t think even read the bill. Rehberg says almost every one of the people who talks to her about the proposal is “feeding at the trough” and being told what to say and do. Senate Republicans met yesterday, and continue to say they’re not willing to approve new state debt, but would agree to raise the state tax on cigarettes to bankroll a new state economic development fund. They call their proposal the “Grow Iowa Plan” and Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says they’ll continue to insist on income tax cuts, too.The Senators propose an economic development fund that would spend about 100-million dollars less than the plan that cleared the House. Senate Republicans don’t want to spend state money on school repairs, tourism or recreation projects, all of which were included in the House-endorsed plan. Senate President Mary Kramer, a republican from Clive, downplays the differences. Kramer says the gap may not be as wide as it appears. Governor Tom Vilsack is optimistic, too, saying “We’re getting close.” Vilsack says progress is being made, but he’s not sure the plan advanced yesterday by Senate Republicans will be acceptable to Republicans in the House.
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