Finally, the Rebuild Iowa Commission is hard at work. They even have a logo. Sharp.
So what inspiring message did the best and brightest deliver to weary Iowans?
State and federal officials acknowledged Thursday there will be “huge gaps” between the financial aid government can provide and the resources that will be needed for many Iowa communities to recover from the state’s worst natural disaster.
“We will work to get every dollar that we deserve, but it won’t be enough,” said David Miller, administrator of Iowa’s homeland security and emergency management division. “In the end, there will be these huge gaps between what’s available from the feds and what’s really needed.”
Miller said rough estimates indicate that gap in unmet needs easily tops $1.25 billion, with housing being paramount as local officials grapple with such issues as buyouts and temporary rental units and spin off concerns over retaining workers, maintaining their tax bases and keeping stable economies.
Oh. Bummer. So, I make a motion to change the name of this panel to the Rebuild Some of Iowa Commission. Second?
But, on the bright side, the Gov. Culver acknowledged the state will have to step in to help fill some of that gap, and that the Legislature is coming back in September. Also, the commission, headquartered in flood-ravaged Urbandale (sarcasm), is going to have a meeting in Cedar Rapids on July 31.
So where’s the state’s gap-filling money going to come from?
First, they’ve got to dip into reserves. After all, with people hurting, why should the state be allowed to sit on a pot of extra tax dollars paid by Iowans? Give it back to people who need it.
Second, this Legislature has approved huge spending increases over the last two years. It’s time to revisit those increases now that circumstances have changed. I’m not saying teacher salaries and other big ticket spending items aren’t important, but it might be prudent to shave back the rate of increase to provide more recovery dollars. And if we’re bonding for a prison, what about bonding to pay for repairs to other public facilities hit by flooding?
Third, there should be some move to give local governments more revenue tools to deal with the disaster, even if they’re temporary and and allowed only in disaster-designated counties. The sputtering Model T funding structure we have now is a barrier for local officials.
Fourth, lawmakers should take advantage of a bipartisan atmosphere to come together on at least one big, tough issue, like property tax reform or sustainable infrastructure funding. I know that’s a long shot, but wouldn’t it be a monument to Iowa’s gritty disaster response if lawmakers solved one of those protracted, perennial problems? I think it would. Forget the election. Think legacy.
And sell RIO logo apparel. I bet it would fly off the shelves. (Sarcasm)
UPDATE — Looks like Culver, who appeared on Iowa Press today, is already rejecting idea No. 2:
JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Chet Culver says the state won’t have to cut back on ambitious and expensive long-term education and alternative energy programs despite the heavy cost of this year’s flooding.
Culver says the state has more than $600 million in reserve funds and has controlled spending, giving it a fiscal pad.
Speaking Friday, Culver also ruled out any increase in the gasoline tax to help pay for flood recovery efforts.