Governor Chet Culver has no opinion on a potential money-raising proposal floated Friday by a top Democrat in the Iowa House. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says the capacity of the state-owned fiber optic network is attractive to the private sector, and it may be time to consider selling or leasing the Iowa Communications Network.
Governor Culver was the first state official to publicly float the idea of selling the Iowa Lottery — an idea which has now been abandoned. But Culver doesn’t have an opinion yet on the potential sale of the Iowa Communications Network. “I’ve had no discussions with the leader on that and maybe it’ll come up at our leadership meeting next week,” Culver says. “It’s the first I’ve heard about it.”
House Republicans on Thursday said the nearly 20-year-old Iowa Communications Network is a drain on state resources and the state might be able to sell the I.C.N. and buy telephone and Internet hook-ups from the private sector more cheaply. McCarthy on Friday morning said the miles and miles of fiber optic cable laid throughout the state has never been used to its capacity, and he’s met with private sector businesses which are interested in buying or leasing all or part of the system.
On Friday afternoon, the governor didn’t reject the idea of selling the I.C.N., but he didn’t endorse it either. “I don’t have enough information about it,” Culver told reporters. “We’ll see.”
The Iowa Communications Network was touted by former Republican Governor Terry Branstad as a way to bring “distance learning” to students in rural schools and workers began laying the network’s fiber optic cables in 1990.
Current Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, on Friday afternoon signed into law a bill which provides nearly 60-million more dollars in state aid to all K-through-12 public schools for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2010. “Without President Obama’s help on this economic recovery plan, we would not have been in the position to do this two percent increase, so we’re going to do everything we can to find that extra money for teacher quality and for professional development and most importantly for the per student amount of money,” Culver said. “So it’s really good news, despite the budget challenges.”
Culver and legislators have not yet decided whether to fulfill the four-percent increase in general state aid to schools that they promised schools for this fall. By state law, state policymakers are to set the general level of state aid to schools far in advance to give administrators time to plan budgets. If the governor and legislators do not forward the extra four percent to schools for this fall, schools do have the option of dipping into their cash reserves, or raising local property taxes to make up the difference.