Governor Chet Culver today proposed that the state borrow $700-million for a "Rebuild Iowa" initiative to finance "much-needed" infrastructure projects around the state.
"Iowans are tough. We’re never better than when our backs are against the wall. We stand tall, and never give up. In Iowa, we keep our promises. Our word is our bond. We stand up for Iowa values," Culver said. "We work together – like a team – to get things done and so, I believe our first order of business of the 2009 Legislative session must be to rebuild the state we all love."
Culver unveiled the details of his plan this morning during his 2009 "Condition of the State" message. "The tornados, floods, and storms which killed and injured so many at the Little Sioux Scout Camp, and in too many communities across Iowa, didn’t discriminate in the pain they caused, " Culver said.
"But at the same time, we saw – together -that first responders – and thousands of volunteers – also didn’t distinguish between old and young, rich or poor. They didn’t ask if you were black, white, or brown, urban or rural. Volunteers clearing debris didn’t ask if you were Democrat or Republican! Instead, they asked, Are you okay? What do you need? and How can we help? Let’s carry that lesson with us this legislative session."
Culver said he and legislators had a "duty" to respond, and his $700-million plan. "How can we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, as a team – to rebuild Iowa? How can we help ease the pain, for those still suffering? How can we put people back to work, create jobs, invest in our infrastructure, and balance the budget?" Culver asked. "Well, I believe that’s our duty. Our constituents sent us here to work as a team, and to provide solutions to today’s challenges.
Culver proposes using state gambling revenues as the collateral for the bonds or borrowing that would bankroll that seven-hundred-million dollars fund. Culver opened his speech by recounting the drama of the Memorial Weekend tornado which struck Parkersburg.
A few minutes later, Culver addressed the springtime flooding which caused damage that remains today. As the governor acknowledged the dignitaries in the room, he made a pointed comment aimed at Republican State Auditor Dave Vaudt. Culver said he and Vaudt shared "a commitment to fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets."
In addition, Culver paid tribute to another Republican, former state senator Mary Lundby of Marion, who is battling cancer.
As for the details of the recovery plan, Culver wants to use $43-million of the state’s reserve fund for flood recovery while also borrowing The $700-million to rebuild the state’s infrastructure. Culver proposes creating the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Authority to do the job. "But when say infrastructure, I’m not just talking about bridges and roads, I mean all infrastructure; rail, trail, public buildings, water and sewer facilities, the utility grid and telecommunications too," Culver said.
Culver says this will rebuild the state and create new jobs. He says for every $100 million spent on highway construction alone, more than 4,000 new jobs are created. Culver says infrastructure investment is essential for not only job creation, but for keeping existing jobs in Iowa.
Culver says the state has a high bond rating which will allow it to borrow the money and use corresponding budget cuts to pay for them. "We’re gonna have to cut back on the day-to-day expenditures of state government," Culver said, "but, at the same time, we will be investing in bricks and mortar – to create jobs and keep our economy going. And we’re in a position to pay back the bonds without raising taxes. The Rebuild Iowa Investment Bonds will be funded through existing gaming revenue, and will provide grants, and loans for projects statewide."
Culver says state government will have to work hard to manage the budget, and it won’t be easy. Culver says," Most of us here – in fact, all of us – won’t like some of the effects of these cuts. But all Iowans must share in the responsibility to keep our fiscal house in order. Simply put, if Iowans are being asked to do more with less, then government should too."
Culver says the state can make government more lean and efficient, create infrastructure jobs, and cut spending and that means some services will be cut. Culver said again this is no time to raise taxes.