Braley, Loebsack co-sponsoring new jobs bill

Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack are among 105 co-sponsors of H.R. 4812, the Local Jobs for America Act. The bill “would provide direct funding to local governments to create, restore or save up to one million public and private jobs for the next two years.” According to the House Education and Labor Committee, the bill includes “$75 billion over two years to local communities to hire vital staff” and “[f]unding for 50,000 on-the-job private-sector training positions.” Some provisions that the House of Representatives approved in separate legislation are included in this bill too, such as $23 billion to “help states support 250,000 education jobs” and extra money for law enforcement and firefighters. Groups endorsing the bill include the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Job creation needs to remain a top priority, because the latest recession saw the most severe employment drop the U.S. has experienced in the last seven decades. Congress recently approved a small jobs bill focused on tax credits and Build America Bonds, but direct support for state local budgets would probably have more stimulative effect. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has warned, government spending cuts “are problematic policies during an economic downturn because they reduce overall demand and can make the downturn deeper.” If the federal government can soften the blow for state and local governments, the risk of a double-dip recession will be reduced.

I am seeking comment from Representative Leonard Boswell’s office about why he’s not co-sponsoring H.R. 4812 and will update this post when I hear back.

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End of 2010 legislative session thread

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned for 2010 today, wrapping up the legislative session in just 79 days. In the coming weeks I will post about various bills that passed or failed to pass during the session. For now, you can read wrap-up posts at Iowa Independent, IowaPolitics.com, the Des Moines Register and Radio Iowa.

Democratic legislative leaders said the House and Senate “succeeded in responsibly balancing the budget without raising taxes while laying the groundwork for Iowa’s economic recovery.” Governor Chet Culver described the session as “a real victory for Iowans, particularly hardworking Iowa families.” He also hailed passage of an infrastructure bill including the final installment of the I-JOBS state bonding program. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 praised several bills that passed this year, such as the government reorganization bill, the early retirement program and a budget that saved many public employees’ jobs.

Republicans and their traditional interest-group allies saw things differently, of course. House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley and Iowans for Tax Relief all emphasized the use of one-time federal dollars to help cover state spending. Their talking points have made headway with Kathie Obradovich, but the reality is that much of the federal stimulus money was intended to backfill state budgets, and rightly so, because severe state spending cuts can deepen and prolong an economic recession.

Overall, I am not satisfied with the legislature’s work in 2010. Despite the massive costs of reconstruction after the 2008 floods, legislators lacked the political will to take any steps forward on floodplain management. Despite the film tax credit fiasco, not enough was done to rein in tax credits. Many other good ideas fell by the wayside for lack of time during the rushed session. (It strikes me as penny-wise and pound-foolish to save $800,000 by shortening the legislative calendar from 100 to 80 days.) Some other good proposals got bogged down in disagreements between the House and the Senate. Labor and environmental advocates once again saw no progress on their key legislative priorities, yet this Democratic-controlled legislature found the time to pass the top priority of the National Rifle Association. Pathetic.

On the plus side, the 2011 budget protected the right priorities, and most of the projects funded by the infrastructure spending bill, Senate File 2389, are worthwhile. Some good bills affecting public safety and veterans made it through. In addition, Democrats blocked a lot of bad Republican proposals. Credit must also go to the leaders who held their caucuses together against efforts to write discrimination into the Iowa Constitution.

Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Read Todd Dorman on the Iowa House’s “parting gift to local government officials who like to play secret agent on your dime.”

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Hey, Republicans: Bruce Braley can multitask

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee confirmed yesterday that Representative Bruce Braley will co-chair the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program this year. Red to Blue candidates are Democratic challengers seeking to win Republican-held House districts. DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen noted this week that even in a “tough cycle for Democrats,”

The DCCC is focused on not only protecting our threatened incumbents, but also staying aggressively on offense. The talented leadership of our battle-tested Red to Blue chairs Bruce Braley, Allyson Schwartz, Patrick Murphy, and Donna Edwards will ensure Democratic candidates have the infrastructure and support they need to be successful.

The Republican Party of Iowa responded with a boilerplate statement accusing Braley of being loyal to “San Franciscan Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi” instead of the citizens of Iowa’s first Congressional district. Their attacks on Braley’s record could hardly be more misleading.  

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Republican hypocrisy watch: stimulus money edition

The conservative Washington Times newspaper noticed yesterday that some vocal opponents of last year’s stimulus bill haven’t been walking the walk:

More than a dozen Republican lawmakers, while denouncing the stimulus to the media and their constituents, privately sent letters to just one of the federal government’s many agencies seeking stimulus money for home-state pork projects.

The letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, expose the gulf between lawmakers’ public criticism of the overall stimulus package and their private lobbying for projects close to home.

“It’s not illegal to talk out of both sides of your mouth, but it does seem to be a level of dishonesty troubling to the American public,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The Washington Times learned that Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley

was yet another lawmaker who voted against the stimulus and later backed applications for stimulus money in two letters to the Agriculture Department.

“If the funds are there, Senator Grassleys going to help Iowa, rather than some other state, get its share,” spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said.

Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan commented in a statement, “Someone needs to tell Chuck Grassley that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t vote against something and then take credit for the funds coming to Iowa.”

Sure he can, and he’ll keep doing that until Iowa journalists report that Grassley was against the spending before he was for it.

Longtime Bleeding Heartland readers may recall that Representatives Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) have played this game too. Last March, Latham bragged about earmarks he inserted in the 2009 omnibus spending bill he voted against. King sought out favorable publicity for stimulus money allocated to widen U.S. Highway 20 in northwest Iowa, even though he voted against the stimulus bill. Those actions earned King and Latham spots on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Hypocrisy Hall of Fame.” It’s not an exclusive club, though: 71 House Republicans have already been inducted.

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Congratulations to the Iowa Renewable Energy Association

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association announced Friday that it will receive $100,000 in federal stimulus money awarded by the Iowa Office of Energy Independence.

I-Renew will receive $100,000 under the training and information program to expand its staff in order to provide training related to wind, solar, and solar thermal in at least 24 workshops over the next two years. Introductory and advance level courses will be offered. […]

In addition, I-Renew will coordinate with Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to ensure that workshops of­fered by I-Renew fulfill the prerequisites for the MREA intermediate and advanced offerings.

For years, I-RENEW has run workshops for homeowners on installing renewable energy technology. The new workshop series will focus on training professional installers, who will be able to provide that service for many more Iowa homes and buildings. Lots of people who aren’t DIY types may be interested in having a wind turbine or solar panels on their property.

This program is only one small part of the federal stimulus bill, but it will yield long-term benefits in terms of cost and energy savings.

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