Governor Chet Culver has embarked on a five-city tour to tout his “I-JOBS” program which is financing infrastructure projects for roads, bridges and sewers as well as other city, county and state-owned structures.
Culver, a Democrat, defended the program last night during a debate in Sioux City with his Republican challenger, Terry Branstad. “We’ve bonded for $800 million to do 1700 projects across this state, to put people to work,” Culver said. “Short term, in the month of June, 7000 people were working I-JOBS projects.”
Branstad has been harshly critical of I-JOBS because it’s borrowed money. The state is using gambling taxes to repay that debt. “Those receipts would have gone for good projects all around the state of Iowa and we could have done it on a pay-as-you-go basis and we could have had twice as much work done over the next 23 years,” Branstad said during last night’s debate. “Instead, we’re going to be paying back that debt.”
Culver accused Branstad of misleading Iowans by saying Iowans will repay the I-JOBS debt. “One hundred percent of the bonds are being paid off with gaming revenue,” Culver said, “and only if you go to a casino in Iowa will you pay one penny for the 1700 I-JOBS projects.”
Culver compared state borrowing during his first term to the four terms Branstad previously served as governor, saying Branstad’s borrowing total was four times as high as the Culver administration’s. “When…he talks about all the bonding that went on when I was governor, the debt load has increased three times since I left office,” Branstad said during last night’s debate. “The fact is we were very low in terms of debt financing, one of the lowest in the country. Under Governor Culver it’s gone up dramatically. Yes, we’re still low, but we’re going in the wrong direction.”
The I-JOBS Board today approved $30 million in grants for 23 different projects around the state that aim to prevent future natural disasters. Culver made stops in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids this morning He stopped in Muscatine and Fort Madison this afternoon and plans a news conference in Des Moines this evening at five o’clock.