State Senate ad fact-checked on I-JOBS spending - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

State Senate ad fact-checked on I-JOBS spending

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

While many eyes are on the presidential race right now, there are dozens of local and statewide races on the November ballot, too.  Of course that means more ads filling your TV screens.  And there's a pair of ads in two separate state senate races are raising a few eyebrows..

In Iowa senate districts 28 and 48, the Republican candidates are both running attack ads, slamming their opponents for supporting the "I-JOBS" plan.  You'll recall "I-JOBS" was signed into law by Governor Chet Culver in 2010, and was intended to boost the economy through flood recovery and job creating projects.  The campaign ads accuse the plan of running up our state debt, and putting taxpayers on the hook to pay for it. 

"State legislators voted for the I-JOBS debt plan.  They put Iowa families on the hook for 25 years and more than $1 billion," one ad says.

"They put Iowa families in debt for 20 years to the tune of $1 billion," says another ad.

Two ads, two races, with a nearly identical message.  I-JOBS was a bad program and cost too much money.  But do the facts of the ads hold up?  Michael Breitbach is running one of them and says "yes".

"If you take three million people in Iowa and an average family size of 2.8 people, a billion dollars comes down to about $1,000 per family," said Michael Breitbach, (R) Iowa Senate 28 candidate.

In a report by the non-partisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency, you can see the total amount of bonds issued to pay for the I-JOBS program is just over $1 billion to be paid back by 2038. So that ad claim holds up.

But what about the cost to taxpayers?

"That money will be repaid with casino money, with casino revenue or fines collected by the state.  So on a financial aspect of it, the idea taxpayers are on the hook is perhaps a little misleading," said Chris Larimer, KWWL Political Analyst.

"Whether you want to split hairs on if this is gambling revenues or other types of taxes, it's still revenue that's coming into the state that's being diverted away from other activities that's instead being used to pay down on this debt," said Breitbach.

"Casino revenue would be the primary source of servicing the debt, and liquor taxes the second.  To say it's a taxpayer burden is simply inaccurate," Breitbach's opponent, Democrat John Beard, said.

The strategy in these ads is part of a bigger trend.  From Iowa legislative races to the presidential campaign--candidates on both sides are trying to score political points by talking tough on spending, and debt control.

With less than three weeks to election day, it'll soon be up to you, the voter, to decipher the messages and decide which leaders to put in office.

One of the state senate ads also argues the I-JOBS plan not only cost too much, the projects it paid for were a waste of money.  That includes the Cedar Falls Ice House Museum and the National Balloon Museum in Indianola.

Here are the facts--yes, both got I-JOBS money.  The Ice House received more than $500,000 and the Balloon Museum over $200,000. BUt both argue their projects did create jobs and were vital to keep attracting visitors.

Additional notes:

The Iowa Legislative Services agency says approximately $55 million of casino revenues is being used annually to pay the bonded I-JOBS funding, with interest.  That is a portion of the estimated $289 million in annual gaming revenues.  The casino funds not used for I-JOBS go into the "Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure" funds that can be used for a number of budget items.

The Cedar Falls Ice House Museum used its I-JOBS funding for flood recovery.  The museum was rebuilt entirely, including raised floors to prevent future flood damage.  Since the museum re-opened, the Historical Society says there's been an increased visitor interest.  The museum is the only one of its kind in the country: ice house history in an actual former ice house.  The revamped museum also includes a section devoted to Cedar Falls history, which has opened up interest to additional visitors.

The National Balloon museum used its I-JOBS money for a landscaping project.  The land around the museum was actually sliding into a ditch, presenting structural issues.  Repairing the problems has once again made the museum an attractive place for visitors.  The museum annually welcomes about 4,000 guests, according to its staff.

"Some people may consider some of what we spend the money on frivolous.  But that's just the way things go.  We saw it as, Iowans help Iowans in time of need.  We were recovering from the national natural disaster with the flooding, and it was also a time when the economy was in tough shape.  It seemed prudent to meet our needs for repair with needed infrastructure," John Beard, the subject of one of the ads said.

Beard's opponent, Mike Breitbach, still insists much of the I-JOBS funding could've been used better.  He also says it's not the government's role to create jobs, rather to create an environment where people and businesses can create jobs.

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