Governor Tom Vilsack’s signature on the “Iowa Values Fund” bill that reestablishes the state program that doles out huge state grants to businesses comes amidst a growing debate in his party. Representative Ed Fallon of Des Moines is one of the Democrats who hopes to succeed Vilsack as governor and he is a staunch opponent of the program. “I believe that if we can show that our party is not the party that is going to cater to corporate interests we will see many, many more people — currently disenfranchised Republicans, Independents and non-voters — who want to be part of that big tent,” Fallon says. “I believe to do that, though, we’re going to have to be very specific and very clear that we stand with people, that we are the party that (is) for public need and we are opposed to private greed.” Fallon calls Vilsack’s economic development strategy “corporate welfare.” “I don’t know what else to call it. When Wells Fargo gets 10 million dollars from the Values Fund and actually a total of 85-point-five million in taxpayer subsidies, that is not economic development. That’s a corporate give-away and that has to end,” Fallon says. But two other Democrats who’re mulling the idea of running for governor are bragging about the Values Fund. Iowa Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin says the state’s economic development strategy, which he co-authored, is moving the state in the right direction. “Quality, meaningful economic pursuits of the kinds of professions, careers that keep young people in Iowa and give us reason to think that there’s hope for the future,” Blouin says. Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, also touts the huge, multi-million dollar grants the state will hand to businesses through the Iowa Values Fund. “We passed a jobs bill for the next 10 years,” Gronstal says. “I think that’s a good record.” The three Democrats made their comments last Saturday night to Story County Democrats meeting in Nevada. The crowd of about 150 applauded the points made by all three men rather than picking sides in this debate about the state’s economic development strategy.
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