$100 Million Iowa Relief Plan Would Include Buying Flooded Homes

March 16, 2009

Iowa Democrats have unveiled a $100 million flood relief package and are negotiating how to pay for it.

The biggest part of the plan would be $20 million for flood prevention efforts. The plan sets aside $12.5 million to buy out flooded homes that aren’t eligible for federal disaster money, $14 million for storm water drainage programs and $15 million to repair damaged cultural and historical centers.

“We know many communities across Iowa are still putting the pieces back together after last summer’s devastating floods and storms,” said Rep. Tom Schueller, D-Maquoketa.

While lawmakers are figuring out how to pay for the package, Schueller said the plan would spell out a priority list of programs that would get money.

“It is my goal to prioritize state recovery efforts to help communities rebuild stronger and than ever before,” he said at a Statehouse news conference.

Schueller heads the House Rebuild Iowa and Disaster Recovery Committee, which will begin combing through the package this week. He conceded key decisions are weeks away.

Part of the goal in crafting the package was to include protections and programs that could be in place when the next natural disaster occurs, he said.

Discussions are under way about how to pay for the effort, Schueller said. A portion could come from the state’s cash reserve fund, and some could be a part of a larger borrowing program.

Gov. Chet Culver has asked the Legislature to borrow $700 million to pay for flood recovery and other state rebuilding efforts.

Most budget decisions at the Statehouse are on hold for a couple of weeks. A panel of budget experts is scheduled to meet March 20 and issue a new projection of how much the state will collect in taxes.

State law requires the Legislature to use that as the base for spending by the Legislature, and few major decisions can be made about spending until that number is calculated.

Other major spending in the package unveiled by Democrats includes $5 million for relocated flooded day-care centers, $5 million to repair damages to nonprofit facilities, and another $9.5 million for multi-family housing construction.

The Democrats would spend $6 million for soil conservation and water retention, and $1.5 million for loans to soil erosion prevention programs. Yet another $5 million would be used to repair damaged parks and recreation areas.

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