Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver says a 50-million dollar federal grant for the indoor rainforest that’s to be built in Pella is an example of the wasteful federal spending that’s occurred during Jim Nussle’s tenure as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee. The EarthPark project is also the target of a new Culver campaign ad that criticizes Nussle, Culver’s Republican rival, and Culver is now talking about the issue in campaign appearances.
“I think it’s important that we do not waste the taxpayers money,” Culver says. “You wonder how we have $260 billion of debt. We’ve had a lot of pork barrel spending. Congressman Nussle has supported bridges to nowhere in Alaska, a world toilet summit in Ireland, a rainforest in Iowa.”
Culver points to a group that recently labeled the EarthPark grant the worst example of pork barrel spending in Washington. After years of negotiations with over a dozen Iowa cities, the EarthPark’s board of directors announced last month the facility is to be built in Pella, once they’ve lined up the financing. Pella has committed 25 million to the project.
Culver says he’s not suggesting that the 50-million from the feds be returned, but Culver says he would never have voted to give the grant in the first place. “They can still move forward. There’s nothing stopping them. In fact, they will try,” Culver says. “My point is that it is one of the projects that received national attention and contributed to the debt.” EarthPark backers estimate five-hundred construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs will be created with the facility, which is scheduled to open in 2010.
EarthPark backers are hoping to win a 20-million dollar state grant to finance construction. Nussle’s campaign points out that not only did Republican U.S. Senator Charles Grassley champion the rainforest grant, but Democrat Senator Tom Harkin voted for it, too.