Behind-the-scenes negotiations will continue at the statehouse this week as Governor Culver tried to get his giant, $750 million "economic stimulus package" approved. Culver and his fellow Democrats who control the legislature’s debate agenda don’t agree on which types of projects should be included — and how much the state should borrow to implement Culver’s plan.
Culver chided statehouse reporters late last week for focusing on the points of disagreement. "What I’d like the press to focus on is the common ground here," Culver said during a news conference in his statehouse office. "We’re very, very close to getting a really important public policy initiative passed. We’re not far apart at all."
But Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs stresses that Democrats in the legislature haven’t made up their minds yet on the scope and size of the package. "We are working with the governor. Our key people on that are meeting with the governor (and) the governor’s shop," Gronstal says. "That’s ongoing and we are very confident we will reach an agreement."
Culver wants $750 million to be spent over three years; Democrats seem to back borrowing $700-million that’d be spent on infrastructure projects around the state. Again, the governor seems to downplay the differences. "I think their number is $700 million. I’ve talked about $750 (million), so I think the story should be how cooperatively we’re working together," Culver told statehouse reporters. "and how close we are to doing a huge jobs initiative."
Top Democrats, like the speaker of the House, have raised concerns about a key component of Culver’s "I-Jobs" proposal. Borrowing money for road and bridge work around the state would set the state up for a "boom and bust" road construction cycle.
Gronstal says the details of a deal, at this point, just haven’t been hammered down. "I think the attitude amongst all of the players is that we’re going to find a resolution to this and work through it," Gronstal says.
Both the governor and lieutenant governor have been traveling the state, trying to drum up support for Culver’s "I-Jobs" plan. Culver plans stops in Davenport, Clinton and Maquoketa on Tuesday where he’ll visit "shovel ready" sites where he argues money from his $750 million plan could be spent.