Iowa Senate passes $119M infrastructure budget bill

Environmental and building improvements on the list for funding

DES MOINES – Democrats who control the Iowa Senate passed a $119 million infrastructure bill Tuesday that channels mostly state gambling profits to a wide range of environmental and building improvements next fiscal year.

“This bill is about moving Iowa forward,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, floor manager for House File 638.

The measure dedicated more than $42 million to the state’s Environment First fund for an array of projects. Nearly $30 million was earmarked for completing prison projects in Mitchellville and Fort Madison, $10 million for the state’s Community Attractions and Tourism (CAT) program, $8.6 million for lake dredging, $5 million for park improvements and $5.5 million for multimodal transportation that could include money to facilitate expanded passenger rail service.

During Tuesday’s floor debate, Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, offered an amendment to direct $20 million of state surplus dollars toward completing the conversion of U.S. Highway 20 to a four-land highway in western Iowa.

“It’s time to fund it. Let’s finish it,” Bertrand said before seeing his proposal muster eight affirmative votes.

McCoy called Bertrand’s amendment a “terribly bad and very dangerous idea” that threatened to “put pork barrel politics back in this Legislature.”

Senators also turned back an amendment offered by Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, which sought to strike language directing that CAT money be prioritized for projects that attract the highest number of visitors and that attract the highest matching fund levels.

Johnson worried that the language would pit small towns against big cities and other small towns, but McCoy countered that approach was to maximize the amount of private money that could be leveraged with public dollars.

The bill now goes back to the House for consideration and like end up in a conference committee to resolve differences between the chambers.

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