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Iowa U.S. House members seek nearly $100 million for projects
‘Earmarks’ would address infrastructure, housing, workforce, child care needs
CEDAR RAPIDS — A million dollars for the University of Iowa Flood Center to install flood monitoring hydrologic stations in 28 Eastern and Southeast Iowa counties.
Another $2.5 million to complete the Forevergreen Road corridor in Johnson County.
Seven million dollars for improvements at The Eastern Iowa Airport, and the same for Fayette County to use soybean-based polymer technologies developed at Iowa State University to improve several miles of rural roads.
These funding requests for fiscal 2023 are among the nearly $100 million sought by Iowa members of Congress through what once was known as “earmarks.” That process, often associated with unjustified pork barrel spending, returned in 2021 after a 10-year ban and was renamed “community project funding.”
It’s a way for the federal government “to meet the urgent needs of communities,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a letter to colleagues.
Members may submit up to 15 requests, up from 10 last year. DeLauro has instituted transparency guidelines and requires requests include evidence of community support.
Northeast Iowa U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, a Republican who sits on the Appropriations Committee, requested funding for neighborhood revitalization in Waterloo, emergency services facilities in Gilbertville and Independence and flood mitigation projects in Cedar Rapids and Guttenberg, among other requests.
Her goal in asking for community project funding is “to bring as many targeted resources into the district where they will have the most transformational impact.” She seeks funding only for projects that have community buy-in and support, Hinson said this week.
Her fiscal 2022 requests were for targeted infrastructure investments including Tower Terrace Road in Linn County and a new fire station in Northeast Iowa’s Protivin, as well as a Winneshiek County child care center. Those investments “are going to make a huge investment and change in the community,” she said.
The requests also reflect what she says she hears in community meetings around the district — housing, neighborhood revitalization, safety and security and workforce, Hinson said, pointing to the applications she has made for the Hawkeye and Kirkwood community colleges.
Referring to her previous career in television news, Hinson said that as someone “who has been out there, knee-deep in dirty water, covering floods,” she said she knows that investing in Linn County flood mitigation and the UI Flood Center will pay dividends to taxpayers, communities, businesses and homeowners.
In Southeast Iowa, Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is seeking funding for health care facilities in Van Buren County and Muscatine, several road improvements, including Middle Road in Bettendorf, and an upgrade at the national cemetery in Keokuk.
She joined Hinson in asking for $1 million for the UI Flood Center because “having both members submit requests will hopefully increase the likelihood of receiving the necessary funding,” according to her office.
“I will always fight to ensure that Iowan’s hard-earned tax dollars come back to our state,” Miller-Meeks said.
Third District Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne asked for money for a child care center, replacing emergency service radio equipment, an economic development incubator and several infrastructure projects, including improvements at the Des Moines airport. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Iowa 4th District Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, as he did last year, did not seek any earmarks for fiscal 2023.
“As a strong fiscal conservative, Congressman Feenstra does not support wasteful spending that fuels inflation and adds to our crippling $30 trillion deficit,” said his spokesman, Billy Fuerst.
Feenstra voted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package, “which included thousands of wasteful earmarks for liberal priorities in blue states.”
Following Senate GOP caucus rules banning earmarks, neither Sen. Chuck Grassley nor Sen. Joni Ernst requested community project funding.
Grassley's staff noted that most earmarks use funding that already would have gone to the respective states in the form of formula grants or through some other funding stream.
Ernst believes “Congress should be focused on cutting unnecessary spending rather than finding new pet projects to finance with taxpayer dollars,” said her spokesman, Brendan Conley.
Although Ernst did not make any funding requests, she called for the inclusion of her transparency measures to make the price tag of every federally funded project easily available to taxpayers; require public disclosure of every government-funded project that is $1 billion over budget or five years behind schedule; and require all proposed spending by the federal government to include a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on its impact on prices and paychecks.
Miller-Meeks said she feels confident all of her requests have gone through “a rigorous vetting process” following the guidelines established by the Appropriations Committee.
Hinson, who will be going through the budget markup process with her fellow Appropriations Committee members in the coming weeks, agreed that project funding requests will be vetted.
“The (return on investment) for taxpayers is critical in my mind,” she said. “We’re looking to make true investments where they will pay dividends.”
Here is what the representatives have requested:
Rep. Ashley Hinson
- $1 million for Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity’s Targeted Neighborhood Revitalization in the Church Row and Walnut neighborhoods in Waterloo
- $500,000 to construct a new emergency services building in Gilbertville
- $1.1 million to create a Smart Automation Certification Alliance Center apprenticeship hub at Hawkeye Community College
- $245,000 for construction and renovation of the Buchanan County Emergency Management operations center in Independence
- $3.425 million to Guttenberg for the rehabilitation of ponds constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1970s to assist with flood control, but have become a potential health hazard
- $372,000 for upgrades at Northeast Community College’s National Education Center for Agricultural Safety
- $1 million for improvements at Dubuque’s Granger Creek lift station
- $7 million to Fayette County to rehabilitate several miles of rural roads with material sourced from soybeans rather than petroleum polymers
- $1.725 million to Cedar Rapids for the construction a Fifth Avenue gatewell and pump station
- $358,885 to Kirkwood Community College to support its aviation maintenance technician program in partnership with The Eastern Iowa Airport
- $7 million for taxiway expansion at The Eastern Iowa Airport
- $7 million to Marion for the Alburnett Road extension
- $3.5 million for improvements to the Maquoketa wastewater treatment plant
- $333,200 to Osage Municipal Utilities for fiber-optic build out in Orchard
- (With Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks) $1 million to the University of Iowa Flood Center to improve forecasting ability by installing hydrologic stations in 28 Eastern and Southeastern counties
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks
- (With Rep. Ashley Hinson) $1 million to the University of Iowa Flood Center to improve forecasting ability by installing hydrologic stations in 28 Eastern and Southeastern counties
- $960,000 to Keokuk for improvements to the entrance of the national cemetery where the remains of Union and Confederate soldiers are interred
- $1.845 million to Van Buren County Hospital for critical diagnostic and IT equipment
- $3 million to DeWitt to extend East Industrial Street and related utilities as well as 300th Street to Highway 30
- $387,100 to construct a farmers market pavilion at Lyons Four Square City Park in Clinton
- $1.5 million for flood mitigation at the intersection of Marquette and River Drive in Davenport
- $2.5 million for completion of a 7.3 mile arterial street between interchanges on interstates 80 and 380
- $2 million to Marion County or pavement rehabilitation along the G28 corridor
- $4 million to the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine to assist with an $18 million, 42,000--square-foot health clinic
- $1.6 million to Bettendorf for preliminary engineering for the reconstruction of Middle Road
- $1.14 million to Jasper County Conservation to construct a 7-mile multipurpose trail extending the Red Rock Prairie Trail to Mitchellville
- $1.561 million to Fort Madison for enhancements to Riverfront Park and marina
- $4 million for Keokuk County to make pavement improvements on county road V5G
- $4 million to Burlington for rehabilitation of the Summer Street corridor
- $1.881 million for renovations to the Vera French Community Mental Health Center in Davenport
Rep. Cindy Axne
- $1 million to Noble Initiative Fund to construct the Griswold Child Development Center
- $300,754 to the Windsor Heights Police and Fire Department to replace radios
- $500,000 to Clive for improvements to the Clive Greenbelt Landing
- $1 million to Pacific Junction to retrofit green stormwater infrastructure
- $339,000 to Des Moines Area Community College for staffing and equipment for its commercial driver’s license program
- $1.322 million to Wesley Community Services for commercial kitchen equipment to support its Meals on Wheels program
- $779,025 to Adams County Economic Development Corp. to create an entrepreneurial and incubator center in Corning
- $7 million to Polk County to reconstruct 5.2 miles of Highway 415
- $1.2 million to Iowa Homeless Youth Center in Des Moines to build a workforce development and employment facility
- $7 million to Des Moines Airport for improvements
- $1.5 million to Food Bank of Iowa to add 30,000 square feet of warehouse space
- $2 million to Montgomery County for a bridge replacement
- $1.789 million for downtown revitalization in Mount Ayr
- $360,000 to Neighborhood Finance Corp. in Des Moines to rehabilitate homes to increase affordable housing
- $1.919 million to Perry for infrastructure improvements
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