The director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority went head-to-head with a legislator at the statehouse Tuesday as she asked for more tax credits to attract new industry to the state.
Debbi Durham told a budget panel that she has more potential new industry waiting to open up shop than she has tax incentives to offer them.
“These deals are not going to last forever,” Durham said. But lawmakers questioned the $240-million tax incentive package used to help lure a $1.4-billion fertilizer plant to southeast Iowa’s Lee County.
Senator, Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said he knows incentives are part of the process, but asked if the state put too much into the package.
“There are those who would say that maybe the governor’s willingness to try to get to 200,000 jobs that we’re overbuying on a deal,” Dotzler said to Durham. Durham answered quickly,”Governors never negotiate deals. I did this deal, I own this deal and I did what I thought we had to do based on the evidence.”
She said she trusted the fertilizer company CEO’s when he told her the plant would go somewhere else without the incentives. But Dotzler wondered if the plant would have been built here anyway.
“Should we raise these caps and are you gonna continue to make those kind of deals where we’re giving too much out?,” Dotzler asked. Durham said it was fair to look at the fertilizer deal, but she said incentives have to be viewed in a broader picture.
“Let’s look at all the deals combined. And you look what little investment we’re getting for the kind of return we’re having on our books,” Durham said. “Again I would hold this record up against any other state department of economic development.”
Durham says incentives have helped create 15,000 new jobs this year. Durham wants to raise the cap on economic development tax credits from $120-million to $185-million.