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Jacoby: The community’s ride back to recovery

BY DAVE JACOBY - GUEST OPINION | JANUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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Our community has been hit with two major challenges over the past two years — a severe recession and the largest natural disaster in Iowa’s history. As Iowans, we are up to the challenge and will come back better and stronger.

We have taken action on both fronts in the Iowa Legislature. The first bill out of last year’s session was a bipartisan effort resulting in $56 million emergency disaster relief. This effort provided immediate help to families and business for recovery.

A greater response to our economic concerns included the $830 million toward rebuilding critical infrastructure (I-JOBS). The federal government failed miserably during the early part of last decade to maintain the things many take for granted — our roads, bridges, storm-water retention, water sources and quality, and in many ways, our jobs.

The road back will not be easy and will take a commitment from each and every citizen. Sometimes, the problem with politics is it gets too darn political. The people of Iowa do not want to hear the arguments about how we got here; we are where we are. The task at hand is to develop policy that will both encourage growth and help government get out of the way.

This year’s mantra should be consolidating, streamlining, and improving services. One key component will be a bipartisan proposal to enact consolidation of Workforce Development, the Department of Economic Development, and Cultural Affairs. This would combine administrative offices, reduce rent, and tie the three legs of economic growth (recruitment and retention of companies, the labor force, and cultural activities).

Closer to home, we are all concerned with the budget’s effect on local jobs. The UI is our economic engine and our largest employer. Consolidation and streamlining of government services will not only result in jobs saved but also in improving goods and services to Iowans in education and health.

The next two years will be a difficult ride back to recovery.

This is where you come in. We need to hear your suggestions for balancing the budget as well as your ideas on how government may help and, in some cases, get out of the way to expedite recovery.

Faced with the most challenging budget in more than 50 years and with the Legislature cutting this year’s session from 100 to 80 days, it is critical that we operate as a truly open government entity. I have proposed House Concurrent Resolution 4 to change the way we do business in Des Moines, which would restrict passing laws to once every two years.

The first (shortened for cost savings) session would consist of bill drafts and committee work only.

This would provide the public with a longer timeline for review and input and would also provide the Legislature with greater vetting capabilities to reduce unintended consequences. It would also give working people time to question the pros and cons of laws that may significantly affect their lives.

On this two-year cycle, budgeting would need to be done for two or more years out. Long-term budgeting saves administration dollars invested in the yearly allocation of funds. It can be done.

Balancing the budget, spurring the economy, and moving Iowa forward with visionary projects is the charge of this year’s Legislature. Again, with your participation (ideas and concerns), it will be successful.

Dave Jacoby, a Democrat, is a state representative from Coralville. You may contact him at david.jacoby@legis.state.ia.us.


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