A new report from the governor’s staff concludes about  7,000 people were working construction projects in June that were bankrolled by the state’s “I-JOBS” program.

Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, proposed the program in early 2009 and he suggested up to 30,000 jobs would be created as a result. Culver promised to release a report this past February on how many jobs had been created, but Culver chief of staff Jim Larew says that’s still not done.

“We’re going to be doing monthly snapshots to get a sense of how many people are directly on the ground in one capacity or another with a job created by I-JOBS,” Larew says.  “And then secondly we’re going to be doing a comprehensive review…where people can go to a right to a web page and find which job project are we talking about, what is the status of that, is it completed today — that kind of thing.”

The state borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars in 2009 to finance a wide variety of construction projects, including some related to flood recovery. The report shows nearly 1700 projects have been approved for I-JOBS funding. Putting it another way, more than $1.32 billion in projects is either in the planning stages, under construction or completed. 

 “There are 1688 projects in all 99 Iowa counties through June 30, 2010,” Larew says.  “Approximately 300 of those projects have been completed.” 

But some of the large-scale projects, like flood-recovery projects on the University of Iowa campus, won’t be done for a few more years according to Larew. “What you’re finding, now in this construction season, any number of significant projects that have been going and are getting started and are getting visible to the public eye…so people are getting a sense that this is a project that’s really moving forward,” Larew says.

Republicans have repeatedly criticized the program, questioning whether any jobs had been created and complaining about the debt. Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad’s campaign manager released a statement this morning, saying spending that much money for “short-term” construction jobs doesn’t seem like a “great return on investment for Iowa taxpayers.” 

Larew offered a rebuttal to that during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa. “The jobs that were created here are not fictious,” Larew said. “…In fact, some of these jobs are quite significant and will take any number of people to work on and then to put together and in many instances, when the infrastructure projects are done, they will be a platform for good-paying, long-term jobs in the future.”

Culver’s campaign released a 1983 newspaper article in which an aide to then-Governor Terry Branstad said every short-term construction job created in Iowa “will in turn create 70 jobs on the secondary area.” 

Branstad’s 2010 campaign manager said today that I-JOBS has done “next to nothing” to create long-term jobs and he says a number of the projects will be renovations by the time the state pays back the debt two decades from now.

(This story was updated at 12:40 p.m.)