Governor Chet Culver is against the 11th-hour bid to help the embattled "Earthpark" project planned for Pella. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would give Earthpark, a sort of indoor rainforest, a rebate on state sales taxes — the same kind of state tax incentive given to the new Iowa Speedway near Newton.
Last fall, Culver ridiculed the 50-million dollar federal grant for the Earthpark as an example of pork barrel spending. Culver and his runningmate Patty Judge laughed and wore yellow rain slickers as water poured from above in a campaign ad that mocked the indoor rain forest concept.
"Throughout the campaign, I said that we had so many other priorities," Culver says. "It was not helpful in terms of our federal deficit." Culver says no one from the Earthpark board has contacted him to plead their case and he’s not prepared to provide any state support to the project.
"Balancing the budget is my top priority…and it has not been a part of our budgeting priorities," Culver says. David Oman, a Republican who served as chief of staff to former Iowa Governor Robert Ray, has for years headed up the board trying to launch the Earthpark in Iowa. For years Coralville was envisioned as the home of the facility, but Coralville city leaders rejected the project and last year Earthpark’s board of directors picked Pella instead.