The state’s top economic development official is recommending a “status quo” budget for her agency for next year when her boss, Republican Terry Branstad, will be asking voters for another term as governor. Debi Durham — director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority — delivered her budget briefing to Governor Branstad this afternoon.
“I think what we’re doing is saying that the plan that we have is working,” Durham told reporters this afternoon. “I mean we really are moving the needle, so I think we have the resources to be successful.”
Durham’s budget request comes just after Branstad’s administration reduced the governor’s job creation claim. Branstad promised voters in 2010 that he would help create 200,000 more jobs in Iowa by the end of five years and he recently had been telling audiences he’s helped create 160,000 jobs. His staff now cites federal data indicating he’s at least 70,000 jobs short of his original goal. Critics say Branstad is not accounting for job losses. Another state agency is tracking job numbers, according to Durham.
“You know, first of all I don’t have a magic ball,” Durham said. “I can’t tell you exactly where we’re going to be at that end of time, but (the question is): Are we trending and are we tracking where we need to be? And absolutely.”
During her budget presentation in the governor’s office, Durham said the plan “was never to (have her agency) incentivize the creation of 200,000 jobs.” Durham said economic indicators suggest Iowa’s job outlook is headed in the right direction.
“You can feel it,” Durham said. “I mean all you have to do is go around to our communities and see the job postings and see the opportunities for growth.”
Durham’s budget outline asks for the same amount of state grant money next year to hand out to businesses that promise to expand in Iowa or relocate here. She will propose a few tweaks to other existing economic development programs, like having applicants compete for grants that help finance clean up of contaminated property rather providing the money on a first-come, first-served basis.