Iowa legislators have voted to put up the money promised to businesses from a state economic development program that was closed-down by a June Supreme Court ruling. In yesterday’s “special” session, legislators voted to provide $100 MILLION for the state’s Economic Development Department as well as provide some other breaks to existing businesses. Representative Clarence Hoffman, a republican from Charter Oak, said it wasn’t all he or others wanted, but keeps the state’s promises. “I’m pleased that we are doing what we’re doing today so that we can keep the committments that we have,” he said. Representative Ed Fallon, a democrat from Des Moines, opposed the measure. Fallon said handing out money to businesses isn’t the answer. “I don’t think it makes any sense for us to do more of the same which isn’t working, in fact I believe someone once said that was the definition of insanity,” Fallon said. “I’m not suggesting we’re insane, but I do think that we may be misguided in believing that this approach is going to pull us up out of our economic doldrums.” Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack signed the deal into law last night, despite complaints from democrats who oppose the changes in workers comp rules. House Democratic Leader Pat Murphy of Dubuque said it’s wrong to reduce benefits for workers who’re injured a second time on the job. Murphy said “these people got hurt in the workplace and some of ’em have very physically-tough, laboring jobs. We shouldn’t penalize them. We should take care of ’em.” Representative Lance Horback, a republican from Tama, said Iowa businesses are paying 10 MILLION a year more in “duplicate payments” to twice-injured workers. Horback said that money could be better spent on business expansion or payraises or rising health care costs. Representative Phil Wise, a democrat from Keokuk, said the workers comp changes are untested. Wise said no one, “including the lawyers,” understands the proposal. But Horback said it’s a compromise that’s worth trying. Governor Vilsack conceeded the deal wasn’t all he wanted either. Vilsack had hoped republicans would reinstate the gigantic Iowa Values Fund, but the GOP merely provided enough money to make-good on past promises and spread the rest to smaller-scale economic development programs, community colleges, and the state-supported universities. Vilsack says the state’s business development efforts have been operating under a “yellow flag” for the past several months. Vilsack said “we couldn’t move forward.” Vilsack said now “the green flags out,” although if legislators had made a permanent committment to recreate the Values Fund, “we could have had the checkered flag.” Lawmakers approved a tax break for businesses buying new equipment as part of yesterday’s “economic stimulus package,” too. Here’s how the $100 MILLION was distributed: 7 million for DED Marketing; nearly 69 million for DED Financial Assistance for businesses; 10 million for Regents programs; $475,806 for state parks; almost 7 million for workforce training at community colleges; 1 million for job retention programs and over 300,000 for Endow Iowa tax credits and grants.
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