A group of Republican state legislators recommends the state cancel construction of a new maximum security prison to save money for flood repairs. Representative Kraig Paulson, of Hiawatha, is one of nine G.O.P. representatives serving in districts hardest hit by summer flooding and tornadoes.
Paulson says instead of borrowing money for a new prison in Fort Madison, the state should invest in housing buyouts and flood mitigation. He says, "We’re talking about building them a new prison when people in downtown Cedar Rapids, people in Iowa City and part of the University of Iowa are wondering about whether they’re going to have hot water or heat when the snow starts flying."
The group also recommends canceling construction on a new state office building in Des Moines and freezing property taxes at pre-disaster levels. Paulson and his colleagues are calling for a special session of the legislature yet this fall. He says: "We need to go in and reallocate spending. Rather than fixing an organ in Clermont, we ought to be fixing the sewer systems that have collapsed. Instead of sitting here waiting for the treasurer to issue bonds so we can build new beds at Fort Madison, I think we ought to make sure people have heat."
This spring the legislature approved $80 million dollars to restore an antique pipe organ in Clermont and $130 million dollars for a new prison. House Democratic leaders accuse Republicans of playing partisan politics with recovery efforts.
House Speaker Pat Murphy says lawmakers should wait to until the Rebuild Iowa Commission delivers their official report next week before deciding if a special session is necessary. Democrats point out that the money for the prison must be borrowed, so canceling the project would not provide any immediate relief.