A Cedar Rapids legislator is calling for a delay in construction of a new state office building so the money earmarked for that project can be used for flood relief. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says there’s $56 million on hand right now for the project that could be diverted to flood victims.
"I’m making this proposal today because we need to begin the discussion as a state about how we’re going to respond to the floods and where we’re going to get the resources to do that," Hogs says. "…The state office building was a priority in April, but with the floods and the tornado, times have changed and we need to reallocate money."
The Wallace State Office Building, just to the northwest of the statehouse in Des Moines, has a number of design flaws and is slated for demolition. The building’s underground parking garage was condemned a few years ago. In addition to the $56 million of "cash on hand" for replacing the Wallace Building, Hogs says there’s another $14 million forthcoming — for a total of $70 million that could be diverted for flood relief.
"I understand that the Wallace Building is an inadequate facility, but there are other ways we can deal with that other than building a $70 million office building right now," Hogs says. "Let’s take this money, put it with the economic emergency fund, continue to look for ways to attract additional resources so that we can respond in a comprehensive and strong approach to this flood rather than muddling through which is, in my view, what we are in danger of doing."
Hogg, an attorney in Cedar Rapids, says residents of his city who lost their homes or suffered significant property damage in the flooding are frustrated. "This is an unprecedented economic disaster. Some of the answers aren’t easy, but we know we’vie got to get started," Hogs says. "I wish we’d had a special session in July."
The governor and lawmakers are hoping to hold a special legislative session in September after the Rebuild Iowa Commission comes up with a comprehensive estimate of damages and recommendations for state action. However, the top Democrat in the Iowa Senate said this week those plans likely are delayed by inaction in congress on additional disaster relief.
Hogg is a member of the Rebuild Iowa Commission’s task force on housing and he says over 2000 houses in Cedar Rapids probably won’t be inhabitable. "My concern is is that if we don’t have a strong response as a state, people decide to start leaving Cedar Rapids or leaving the state and I’d like to see us have a positive response to keep Iowans here," Hogg says, "to help Iowa families who need who need help and also then to help Iowa businesses who really need a response before January."
The Iowa Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on January 12, 2009, but the governor has the authority to call lawmakers back to Des Moines for a special session. Hogg, a former state representative, was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2006.