The legislature’s top Republican expects lawmakers to impose new restrictions on how state money budgeted for infrastructure projects may be used.
The Associated Press reports the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs used $176,000 set aside to plan for renovating the state historical building to pay part of the salaries for three agency administrators. The money came from the state’s Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
“If we are going to use any of those dollars for salaries, I think we need to know that up front,” says House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake.
A spokesman for the governor says the move was allowed for the past two years because those administrators were spending part of their time on state museum renovation plans.
Upmeyer expects from now on, legislators will more clearly specify how tax money set aside for infrastructure projects may be used.
“I think if we want to include any salary portion for planning or any other purpose, then we should say so in the bill,” Upmeyer says.
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, is cochair of the panel that’s writing the new policy.
“Salaries would not be an allowable expense for the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure dollars in the future,” McCoy says.
There would be limited exceptions to that new rule, however. Staff hired specifically to oversee state-financed construction projects could be paid with money set aside for state government infrastructure.
Groups like the Master Builders of Iowa have complained the state fund that finances renovation and construction of state-owned buildings is being “raided”. In the past three years, the group calculates $337 million has been diverted to “non-construction related” spending.