Vernon: ‘Pay-as-you-go’ would have stalled Cedar Rapids flood recovery

City would be in chaos without I-JOBS, other state aid, lieutenant governor hopeful says

By James Q. Lynch, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — Without I-JOBS and other state assistance, Cedar Rapids would be in chaos rather than recovering from nearly $5.5 billion in damage to public and private property from flooding in 2008, according to Monica Vernon, a city council member and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Standing on the steps of Cedar Rapids’ new $46 million downtown public library — paid for, in part, with $10 million from I-JOBS — Vernon defended the state program pushed by Democratic legislators after floods and tornadoes devastated the state.

It was a topic of discussion during an Iowa Public Television debate last week between GOP Gov. Terry Branstad and Vernon’s running mate, Sen. Jack Hatch.

“The I-JOBS program wasn’t well-thought out,” Branstad said. He advocated a pay-as-you-go approach.

“If we did what Branstad is suggesting — pay-as-you-go, just simply coming up with dollars each year — I would say we are talking about not one decade, but two” to recover from the flood, Vernon said. “Or more.”

“Pay as you go, we’re talking chaos here for a decade or more,” she said.

In a back-and-forth with Hatch, Branstad insisted the “state is much better off under our economic approach, which is a pay-as-you-go approach.”

Hatch questioned what kind of leadership Branstad was offering cities where “roads, schools, all those public buildings were decimated” by the flood.

“If we don’t have the cash, wait until next year?” he asked.

However, the Branstad re-election campaign stuck to the governor’s position in responding to Vernon.

The facts show the Branstad administration has “always acted quickly to help Iowans recover safely and efficiently whenever a natural disaster occurs in Iowa,” spokesman Tommy Schultz said.

Branstad signed flood mitigation legislation that has provided $246 million for recovery efforts in Cedar Rapids, he added.

He chalked up the Hatch-Vernon criticism as “bogus attacks and stale political rhetoric as new polling shows their campaign is lagging 17 points behind.”

There’s always room for debate, Vernon said, but as the flood water receded, action was needed.

“You’re always looking at the price of getting it done,” Vernon said. “We can argue now that perhaps there were many ways to do that. I don’t see people’s taxes going up due to this. I don’t see a hardship on our state.

“What I see is the second largest city in Iowa coming back and continuing to support (the state) with tax revenues as we have in the past,” she added. “I see the rest of Eastern Iowa recovering from those mammoth floods because there was bonding done.”

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