House Democrats on six different occasions have rejected the idea of putting off buying new cars for the state vehicle fleet for the next year. Representative Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, is the legislator who made the suggestion.
"Look, this is not about bailing out G.M., o.k.? President Obama and congress are taking care of that for us," Rants said this week during House debate. "They don’t need $11 million of Iowa taxpayer money."
According to Rants, about four dozen brand new state cars are sitting unused in a parking lot near the capitol.
"And they’re not being used. They’re new vehicles, OK?" Rants told his House colleagues. "Some of them have the stickers on them. None of them have license plates. Some of them still have the seats wrapped in plastic."
At one point this week, Rants suggested the $11 million the state will spend in the next year buying new cars could be used, instead, to provide tuition grants to Iowa’s brightest high school graduates who want to go on to college.
"Why on earth are we buying more cars this year when we can’t fund things like the Iowa Tuition Grant?" Rants asked. "…The choice is this simple: kids or cars? I know how trite that sounds, but it is that simple and that real."
Rants proposed — as another alternative — that the money reserved for buying new cars could be spent on domestic violence shelters.
"I’ve talked to people around the state about the 30-plus shelters that we have and when I explain to them that this General Assembly is more intent on providing $11 million to purchase automobiles than we are in fully funding for domestic violence shelters, they don’t know what to make of it," Rants said during debate of his proposal. "At first they think I’m kidding, that surely that isn’t possible."
Democrats rejected each of the amendments Rants offered to try to delay state vehicle purchases for a year. Specifically, Democrats say they’re using money from the federal economic stimulus package to keep domestic violence shelters around the state open for the coming year. And the governor has the authority to choose to use some of that federal money to provide more Iowa Tuition Grants.
Rants says he tried six times to stop new vehicle purchases and his sixth unsuccessful attempt will be his last.