I-JOBS: A great program with a flawed sales pitch

The Iowa Department of Management released a report on the I-JOBS state bonding initiative yesterday. Click here for the pdf file (more than 100 pages). Governor Chet Culver’s office highlighted how much I-JOBS has invested in infrastructure, particularly in the areas of flood recovery and mitigation, as well as how many jobs have been created or retained. Iowa Republicans continue to claim I-JOBS failed, having funded only temporary jobs at a high cost.

The Department of Management’s report documents about 1,700 projects that could not have gone forward without I-JOBS money. Unfortunately, recent media coverage of I-JOBS hasn’t focused on its clear benefits. The dominant media frame has become a he-said, she-said take on whether I-JOBS has lived up to Culver’s job creation promises last year.

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More false numbers in new Branstad campaign video

Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign launched a new YouTube video attacking the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program. Like other leading Iowa Republicans, Branstad continues to exaggerate I-JOBS costs. The video claims the state bonding will cost Iowa taxpayers $55 million per year for 23 years (a total of $1.7 billion). However, when most of the I-JOBS bonds were sold a full year ago, strong investor demand and Iowa’s solid credit rating drove down the interest rate. The repayment costs are approximately $42 million yearly (from gaming revenue, not the general fund), and will add up to far less than $1.7 billion.

How long will Branstad get a free pass for math that doesn’t add up and false claims about Iowa’s finances? Your guess is as good as mine.

Branstad’s new video also suggests that I-JOBS has created no jobs and nothing of value. I explained why that’s wrong here and here.

UPDATE: Chet Culver’s campaign responded to this web ad from a different angle:

BRANSTAD MOCKS FLOOD VICTIMS IN LATEST WEB AD

DES MOINES – Gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad mocks recent flood victims in his newest web ad, in which he slams Governor Culver’s I-JOBS program.

“A large part of I-JOBS money goes toward flood recovery and mitigation efforts, just ask the citizens of Cedar Rapids and Coralville who depended on aid from I-JOBS to help rebuild their cities and limit damage from future flooding. But Terry Branstad continually mocks I-JOBS; the web video is just the latest representation of that,” said Culver/Judge Campaign Manager Donn Stanley.

Branstad has called the I-JOBS program a “folly.” [1]  The video, released by the Branstad campaign today, is goofy and is, at best, inconsiderate after this weekend’s flooding around Lake Delhi given how critical I-JOBS funding has been in rebuilding from the 2008 floods.

Stanley continued, “Despite this weekend’s flooding, the Branstad campaign continues to mock I-JOBS. It shows just how arrogant and out of touch Branstad and his campaign are. I certainly do not believe that mocking I-JOBS and the flood victims shows the kind of serious leadership Iowans need in tough times.”

Source

[1] Iowa Press Citizen, 6/2/10.

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What is Kim Reynolds' plan to prevent teacher layoffs?

Now that State Senator Kim Reynolds is officially the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, it’s time for her political views to receive more scrutiny. On the day Terry Branstad announced he had picked Reynolds, she said this:

We have a projected state budget gap of nearly $1 billion dollars.  And we have seen a dramatic slide in student test scores and teacher layoffs in school districts across the state. We can do better.  We must do better.  And, as Terry Branstad’s running mate, I will dedicate my every waking minute to sharing with Iowans his ambitious goals for our future.

She repeated those talking points in her speech to the GOP state convention on June 26. Republicans never tire of the “projected state budget gap” ruse. Reynolds is talking about projections for the budget year that begins in July 2011. Maybe she forgot that the Democratic-controlled legislature passed a balanced budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1 despite a projected $1 billion shortfall last November. Reynolds also asserted that Governor Chet Culver has “spent too much, taxed too much, borrowed too much” and dismissed Iowa’s AAA bond rating as irrelevant: “That’s like my husband telling me, our checkbook and savings are empty, but we’ve got $15,000 we can still spend on the credit card.” Not really, Senator Reynolds: Iowa has money left in our state reserve funds (equivalent to a family’s savings account), and independent analysts affirm that our fiscal health is strong coming out of the worst recession since World War II. Many states fully depleted their rainy day accounts in response to an unprecedented drop in state revenues, but Iowa did not.

Like Branstad, Reynolds laments teacher layoffs across the state, and like Branstad, she fails to acknowledge that those education cuts would have been much deeper without the federal stimulus money Iowa has received.

Branstad’s not a numbers guy and hated tough budget meetings when he was governor. Having served four terms as Clarke County treasurer, Reynolds should feel more comfortable talking specifics on state spending. Friends have said she was able to save money as a county treasurer without cutting services. She’s campaigning with a guy who promises to veto any bill that calls for spending more than 99 percent of state revenues collected. Let’s see Reynolds produce an alternative budget for the current year that protects K-12 education without “spending too much.”

Details on the budget for fiscal year 2011 can be found here. All Reynolds needs to do is figure out how to spend no more than 99 percent of state revenues projected for the year. In other words, balance the budget without using the $328 million in federal stimulus money (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds) and the $267 million in reserve funds that Democrats included in the budget Culver signed into law.

If Reynolds is prepared to criss-cross the state bashing Democrats over teacher layoffs, she should be prepared to show us the education budget Iowans could expect under a Branstad administration.

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New Culver ad starts conversation about Branstad's values

Governor Chet Culver’s campaign released a second television commercial spotlighting Terry Branstad’s record. Like the Culver tv ad that debuted last week, the new commercial mentions Branstad’s dismal record on fiscal issues. It also mentions eight pay raises that Branstad signed for himself, some of them during very tight budget years:

Transcript:

As Governor, Terry Branstad admitted “his books were never balanced.” According to the State Auditor, Terry “cooked the books.” And when state unemployment hit a record high, Branstad asked for a raise. When Terry cut foster care, Branstad took another raise. When the state couldn’t pay its bills, Branstad raised our taxes and raised his pay once again. Terry Branstad: Cooked books, Raised Taxes, Eight pay raises. A past we can’t repeat.

A Culver campaign press release with supporting facts and citations from news reports is after the jump.

We all know Branstad wasn’t a good manager of state finances, but I like the way this ad touches on his deeply flawed priorities as well. Branstad started seeking a pay raise during his very first year in office, when unemployment peaked at 8.5 percent. A few years later, this guy wasn’t ashamed to take home more money even as he was cutting foster care programs.

I hope future Culver ads will underscore how cutting state assistance to vulnerable Iowans has long been Branstad’s knee-jerk preference, rather than his last resort. The foster care cuts highlighted in Culver’s new commercial occurred in 1987. When Iowa faced a budget crisis in 1992, Branstad brought two money-saving ideas to a meeting with state lawmakers in advance of a special legislative session: first, cut spending on foster care, and second, cut Medicaid programs that helped children buy eyeglasses and keep senior citizens out of nursing homes. During this year’s campaign, when asked an open-ended question about how he would cut state government, Branstad

said he’s still looking for ideas but did mention reforming the state’s mental health system and rolling back Medicaid, which has been expanded to cover more people, including children. He said state employees should pay for their health insurance like private sector employees.

That’s classic Branstad. Gee, I haven’t figured out yet how to make the budget numbers add up, but why not change Medicaid so that fewer people qualify? While we’re at it, let’s stop helping tens of thousands of families send their four-year-olds to preschool.

Branstad’s record of incompetence should be at the center of the gubernatorial campaign, but let’s not forget about his skewed priorities.

UPDATE: Conservative blogger Gary Barrett claims the Culver ad distorts the facts on Branstad’s pay hikes. The Culver campaign released a response to Barrett’s post, which you’ll find after the jump.

The Branstad campaign cited a Des Moines Register report from 1982 on how Branstad didn’t want a pay raise and might veto such a bill. Culver’s campaign leaped on that as evidence Branstad “said one thing and did another on pay raises.”

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