The director of state economic development efforts is accusing a Democratic senator of political grandstanding over the state incentives for a southeast Iowa fertilizer plant.
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, has been a frequent critic of the half a billion dollars in federal, state and local incentives for the Egyptian company that plans to build the plant near Wever. Bolkcom called Iowa Economic Development Authority Debi Durham to appear before a senate committee three weeks ago to answer questions about the deal. During an appearance on Iowa Public Television this weekend, Durham was asked about that hearing.
“I think it was political theater,” Durham said.
Iowa law limits the amount of investment tax credits state officials may offer a business for new project and the deal with Orascom falls two percent below that limit according to Durham.
“I negotiated that deal,” Durham said on IPTV. “I stand behind that deal.”
Senator Bolkcom repeatedly calls it “the worst economic development deal in state history.” Durham said Friday legislators have every right to ask questions, but Durham maintains some of the questions Bolkcom’s been raising in public had already been answered in 2012.
“Prior to that deal ever being made, I called Senator Bolkcom along with the leadership on both sides of the aisle. In fact, I called about 35 legislators to say, ‘Here’s the deal. Here’s what happening. I want you to understand the parameters in which this deal was struck,'” Durham said. “…I do believe what occurred at that committee was more about political theater than it really was about whether this was a good deal or not.”
Bolkcom maintains Iowa was never in a competition with Illinois to land the plant and $300 million in federal disaster bonds made the Lee County site the winner over a location in Illinois, without the addition of $100 million in state incentives.