(This story updated at 1:25 p.m.)
A key lawmaker says a flood recovery financing plan University of Iowa officials unveiled today will likely get the legislature’s endorsement.
Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I think it’s a go because they’re not asking totally just (for) total state support. They’re asking to raise funds themselves and to reallocate university funds from university funds," Dvorsky says, "so I think it’s a balanced package."
U-of-I officials estimate the Iowa City campus suffered $743 million in damage from last year’s flooding. So far, private insurance policies have covered $80 million worth of that damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has pledged up to $478 million to the university, but that requires the university to come up with matching funds.
Dvorsky says the bill the university seeks would allow the tuition being paid by students to be used as backing or collateral on $100 million worth of bonds, essentially borrowed money from the investors who buy those bonds. The $100 million would be used to meet the FEMA match requirement.
"It’s never enough for (the) flood. I mean we have in the City of Cedar Rapids alone they say it’s $10 billion (in damage) and I don’t know what the university’s is — throw in another billion or whatever," Dvorsky says. "But…this is their best estimate right now of what it costs for the match."
Keith Saunders, a lobbyist for the University of Iowa and the board which governs the university, says Hancher Auditorium and the nearby art building may have to be torn down and rebuilt on another site and that will take years. "This will be a long term process," Saunders says. "We will have construction crews on campus for a number of years. We had over 20 buildings affected by flooding and this is a major, major undertaking."
Saunders met this morning with senators who’ve been appointed to a group that’s studying the $100 million plan. The proposal may be folded into Governor Culver’s call for the state to borrow up to $750 million to finance infrastructure projects around the state.
"We’re supportive of the governor’s bonding plan. We think flood recovery’s a big piece of that and the universities would have a role to play in that," Saunders says. "…As to where this fits, that’s for legislative leaders and the governor to decide."
Legislators like Dvorsky say they’re going to pass a bunch of bills outlining borrow plans for specific areas — like University of Iowa flood recovery — rather than one big, 750-million dollar package. Many legislators are reluctant to embrace Culver’s call for borrowing money to finance road and bridge repair, so it’s likely lawmakers will send Culver a variety of proposals that add up to something less than $750 million.