Democrats at the Statehouse are divided over a key component of the budget. They’re wrangling over how much money to invest in the Iowa Power Fund. The $25-million-a-year grant program was created in 2007 to support renewable energy projects across the state. The top two Democratic leaders in the senate say they want to protect it from the 10% budget cut applied to the rest of state government.
That angers Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, who is chairman of the panel drafting the budget for state health and human services spending. “Funding Medicaid and funding children’s services and those services we’ve come to accept as being not only beneficial to the family also making the Iowa value as a safe place and a good place to grow your family,” Hatch says.
According to Hatch, it’s tough to see that $25-million spent on renewable energy when his panel is cutting services and planning employee layoffs.
But fellow Democrat Bill Heckroth of Waverly says investing in renewable energy is the key to creating new jobs in Iowa. “We have to continue and we will continue to support the Power Fund because of the fact that it does lead to good paying jobs and keeps us moving us ahead in this industry,” Heckroth says.
Republicans have questioned whether the Power Fund grants are meeting job-creation goals. Heckroth says the $41-million in grants have played a key role in expanding wind and biofuels production in Iowa. “I find it extremely frustrating to hear Republicans talk about trying to kill the Power Fund,” Heckroth says. “In these times when we are looking for good jobs and to keep that edge to do anything but support that fund is really taking us backwards.”
But Hatch, a fellow Democrat, says it seems “incongruous” to him and “a little contradictory” to ensure the 25-million dollar allotment for the Power Fund is untouched while other state programs are being cut. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs defends the prospect of extending another 25-million dollars worth of Power Fund grants.
“Vulnerable Iowans need energy and everything we can do to keep stable energy prices and replace the importation of out-of-state energy into our own economy and create jobs…everything we can do on that front is good for Iowans,” Gronstal says. Governor Culver has called on legislators to provide the full, $25-million for the Power Fund.