The top Republican in the Iowa Senate says he has no regrets about voting to give new state tax breaks to Microsoft. A Republican-led group called the "Iowa Future Fund" is running ads which criticize Democrat Governor Chet Culver for backing the bill which granted those breaks to Microsoft, but every Republican in the legislature voted for the bill, too.
Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City says he does not regret backing the bill. "I know that there are those out there who are critical of the bill," Wieck says. "…I’m supportive of business." Wieck suggests there are other business-related issues on which Democrats should be criticized.
"Last year and so far this year we continue to poke sticks in the eyes of business in the state of Iowa on issues like right-to-work, workers comp issues, mandates on health insurance," Wieck says. While Wieck stands behind his "yes" vote on the Microsoft bill, House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City is having a bit of buyer’s remorse.
"You know, it’s all fine and good that, you know, we’re supporting Microsoft. Apparently since Bill Gates slipped from number one in the world to number three (on the list of wealthiest people) he needs the tax break, but what about everybody else?" Rants asks. House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says he’s mystified by the complaints from Republicans about the Microsoft deal.
"They can argue against it but…they didn’t vote against it…and I think the reason why is they see the opportunity to create jobs, great jobs," Murphy says. Murphy also points to a big state tax incentive package Rants sought back in 2004 for a Le Mars-based diary. "I remember sitting in…Rants’ office with (Department of Economic Development director) Mike Blouin and Governor Vilsack and Republican and Democrats leaders, talking about getting an agreement so that we could guarantee that Wells Blue Bunny would stay," Murphy says. "…We agreed to all of that because we agreed that it was the right thing to do for northwest Iowa."
Rants counters that Democrats are failing to provide enough incentives to Iowa’s small businesses. "What about the Main Street business? What about the small manufacturer that’s struggling to survive?" Rants asks. "What about the Iowa business that’s currently doing research and development in biorenewables? Why is it that we’re talking about reducing that tax credit?" Only three of the 150 members of the Iowa Legislature voted against the Microsoft tax package and all three were Democrats.