Republicans in the Iowa House have voted against sending $150,000 in state gambling taxes to a Waterloo museum that would have used the money to record the first-person accounts of Iowans who’ve been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade. Representative Dan Huseman, a Republican from Aurelia, urged legislators to reject the proposal.
“I think it’s a great project. It’s very difficult for me to resist this…but I’m going to at this time,” Huseman said this morning. “It does not meet the definition of vertical infrastructure.”
Other Republicans say it’s part of an overall effort to eliminate so-called “earmarks” in the bill that divvies up over $190 million in state gambling taxes for a variety of other projects, like a new visitors center for the State Historical Building and $3 million for county fairs. Democrats argued the Grout Museum’s project was worthy of state support, too. Representative Deborah Berry, a Democrat from Waterloo, said the project has already recorded oral histories from older veterans in 68 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
“I thought it’s important to make sure everyone is clear that this is not a specific Waterloo project,” Berry said.
Representative Roger Thomas, a Democrat from Elkader, is a Air Force veteran of the Vietnam era who recorded one of the oral histories that’s now part of the Grout Museum database. The $150,000 in state money would have been used to collect the stories from more recent veterans.
“Those new soldiers that return from and are still returning from battle would forever be captured and put into a museum the quality of the Grout one is,” Thomas said. “And I just don’t think it’s going to be a Waterloo museum. I think it’s going to be a national museum.”
Representative Bob Kressig, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, said the museum has the goal of capturing on video the stories of at least 25 percent of the Iowa citizen-soldiers who’ve been called to active duty since 9/11.
“I believe this initiative will provide an opportunity for Iowans to better understand the role and experiences of our Guard and Reserve troops in real-time as opposed to the decades lost with prior war veterans,” Kressig said.
The Democratically-led Iowa Senate has voted to send the money to the museum, but the House voted along party lines to reject the idea.
AUDIO of House debate on this issue.