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Cittical of Branstrad economic initatives

August 21, 2013
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

To the Editor,

When it comes to creating jobs, Governor Terry Branstad's favorite tactic is providing bigger and bigger tax giveaways to mega corporations.

Here's why that's a problem. All too often when Governor Branstad announces he's won yet another bidding war, Iowa taxpayers and existing Iowa businesses are big losers.

I keep waiting for Iowa's governor to switch gears and start talking about why Iowa's a great place to live and do business. That's a much smarter approach than handing over more and more cash from state treasury.

Unfortunately, it is obvious that the Governor still hasn't learned his lesson when it comes to the ORASCOM fertilizer plant negotiations-and it costing all of us, big time.

The Governor and his Economic Development Authority recently made the worst economic development deal in state history even worse. A few days ago, the Governor's appointees handed out another $25 million in state tax dollars to the Lee County project.

Total federal, state and local taxpayer support for this 165 job project is now at more than $500 million. That's more than $3 million per job!

Enough should be enough. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. Governor Branstad is angrily defending his terrible decisions with name calling, inaccurate claims, and promises of still more handouts.

A brief review of the facts shows things went wrong right at the start. Iowa was never really in competition with Illinois for the ORASCOM plant. Only the Iowa sites had access to federal disaster bonds worth about $300 million to the company.

But then ORASCOM, one of the largest corporations in the world, bluffed the Branstad Administration into providing millions more in state and local tax dollars. In that original deal, the state of Iowa tossed in $110 million in state tax credits. Lee County added another $130 million by agreeing not to collect the plant's property taxes for the next 20 years.

Now, almost a year after the project was announced, Governor Branstad has thrown another $25 million in state tax dollars into the pot and is promising another $25 million next year!

Using tax dollars to bribing corporations to invest in Iowa is costly and it isn't fair to Iowa's existing small and Main Street businesses. Here's a better economic development strategy, one that focuses on helps both Iowa businesses and Iowa workers.

This spring, Democrats in the Iowa Senate led the successful, bipartisan effort to address the number one concern of Iowa businesses: Iowa's shortage of skilled workers.

We invested $60 million in helping Iowa's community colleges work with local businesses so Iowans can fill existing job openings for skilled workers. We are helping Iowa businesses expand and grow while helping Iowa families move into the middle class.

There is plenty of agreement on what works with regard to economic development.

Governor Branstad should promote the fact that Iowa is a well-run state where businesses can find hardworking, intelligent employees and stable communities with good local schools, high quality health care, safe communities and a balanced approach to taxes.

Unfortunately, that's not what he is doing. Thanks to Governor Branstad's misguided and poor negotiating skills, the first question a company considering investing in Iowa asks is "How much will we get in tax giveaways?"

Next January, the 2014 session of the Iowa Legislature begins.I hope Governor Branstad and legislative Republicans will help Democrats build a stronger state economy. A good start would be putting an end to Governor Branstad's colossal corporate tax giveaways.

State Senator

Joe Bolkcom

Iowa City



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