Governor Chet Culver and Democrats in the legislature are nearing agreement on a plan that would have the state borrow about $650 million over the next three years to finance infrastructure projects. Culver hinted at the package in January and unveiled his detailed "I-JOBS" wish list in the middle of March.
"It does appear that we’re very close to a compromise, to an agreement on the overall…package that would allow us to create jobs and help our state recover from the floods," Culver says.
A proposal that would allow the University of Iowa to use tuition as collateral to borrow $100 million for flood relief is connected to the $650 million package, for a total of $750 million in spending on infrastructure.
Democratic legislators balked at Culver’s request for $250 million dollars for transportation projects and the final agreement calls for $100 million for roads and bridges. According to Culver, over 3000 Iowans who work in the construction industry were laid off last year and the governor touts this package as a means of getting those people and others back to work.
"You know, I really feel good about the fact that this will not only help us speed our flood recovery efforts and create jobs, but it will allow our state to work ourselves out of this recession," Culver told reporters. "We can’t just wait on Washington. We can’t rely on federal stimulus alone. I felt strongly all along that we need our own state stimulus, that we’ve got to control our own destiny."
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says the legislative branch and the executive branch have an agreement he’s "pretty confident" will win legislative approval.
"Two sides of good faith came together and discussed their differences and came up with something that works," Gronstal says.
Gronstal and other Democrats who control the legislature’s debate agenda hope to wrap up the 2009 session sometime this weekend, but a variety of issues remained unresolved when legislators arrived at the capitol this morning.
Click on the audio links below to listen to Governor Culver’s improptu news conference with statehouse reporters on Thursday afternoon. Below that is another audio link featuring legislative leaders’ news conferences midday Thursday. First you’ll hear House GOP Leader Kraig Paulsen & Senate GOP Leader Paul McKinley, followed by House Speaker Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) and Senate Democratic Leader Gronstal.
AUDIO: Culver speaks to reporters MP3 12 min
AUDIO: Legislative leaders news conferences MP3 25 min