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Governor, don’t let us down

By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

The U.S. Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This huge economic stimulus bill is intended to bring about a faster end to the current recession than would occur without government action.

There is legitimate disagreement about whether the mix of tax cuts and spending programs encompassed in ARRA were the wisest package that could have been adopted. Down the road there will be ample time to assess the effectiveness of ARRA.

What is needed now, however, is a good-faith effort by governmental leaders at all levels to give the approach that has been adopted the best possible chance to succeed. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver has mobilized an impressive and well-coordinated effort by Hawkeye State officials to make ARRA a success story in our state.

According to the governor, Iowa will receive more that $2 billion in direct federal funding as a result of ARRA. He has certified to the president that the funds coming to Iowa will create jobs and promote economic growth.

Honoring that promise may be a complicated challenge. Therefore, Culver by executive order created on April 14 the Iowa Accountability and Transparency Board “to monitor and report on the state’s efforts to implement the federal economic recovery program.”

The 14-member board will include the state treasurer, state auditor, three citizen members, three representatives of local government, the director of the Department of Management, a representative of the governor’s office, and four members from the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. The lawmakers on the panel will be split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

Culver’s statement announcing this important oversight body said its responsibilities will include:

  • Making sure waste, fraud and abuse are prevented;
  • Providing input and information for the state’s recovery Web site;

The economy in Iowa is in a much better shape than is the case in many other states. Even so, some of the statistics released by Culver are hardly the occasion for rejoicing. Two of the governor’s examples underline that point:

  • As of February, the unemployment rate in Iowa was 4.9 percent. That’s not nearly as dismal as the national rate of 8.5 percent, but is the most unemployment Iowa has experienced in 17 years.
  • State revenue has dropped $130 million dollars for FY 2009. The revenue projection for FY 2010 puts the decline at $270 million.

The governor is doing a good job in coordinating the effort to use the federal money properly. Creation of the Accountability and Transparency Board is an excellent step in the right direction.

“An important part of the success of this effort is its transparency and accountability,” the governor said in explaining why the board was established. He pledged that he would do everything he could “to help the people of Iowa know exactly how these funds are being put to the best possible use.”

If the governor holds true to that commitment, he will deserve the admiration of all Iowans. This enormous injection of federal money can help the economy recover. The danger, of course, is that vast sums could be spent unwisely with little real benefit. That would be an unconscionable betrayal of the generations of taxpayers who will ultimately pay the bill for this unprecedented deficit spending.

You’ve made a good start, governor. Don’t let us down.

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