Iowa must now make the most of the infrastructure bill

Months of work in Congress culminated with President Joe Biden signing an infrastructure spending bill. But the signing ceremony is best seen as a start.

Dollar numbers allocated to broadband access, road repairs, water quality and more only make sense in the wisdom of the projects to which they apply.

Only Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Cindy Axne voted for the bill among the congressional delegation from Iowa. Other Republicans have publicly complained about, among other things, the growing national debt (Senator Joni Ernst), omitting credits for biofuels (Representative Ashley Hinson) and wasting taxpayer money (Representative Randy Feenstra). (Representing. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in a press release said she voted no to protest another bill.)

Debt and waste are legitimate concerns. But state and local governments have the tools they need to ensure efficient and conscientious spending of the $ 5 billion that comes to Iowa so that it produces a sustainable return on investment. It is their responsibility, in fact.

Following:Iowa gets $ 5 billion in new projects thanks to the infrastructure bill. Here’s a breakdown.

The Rebuilding the Iowa Infrastructure Fund is supported by gaming revenues and is the state’s primary vehicle for infrastructure spending. The legislator directs the appropriations fund.

With the arrival of new money, why not do everything in our power to make the most of it? The state could set up a full-fledged infrastructure office to manage wishlists, proposals, and interactions with the federal government, and it could appoint subject matter experts to make recommendations on specific initiatives.

This very model for openly encouraging and evaluating requests for large injections of money was part of Governor Tom Vilsack’s Vision Iowa program. The loan for this initiative was repaid last year. Vision Iowa catalyzed big ideas statewide for community attractions, such as the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines. Local spending requirements anchored the big ideas in reality, and discussions in open meetings allowed for public scrutiny.

Formal structure is less important than some form of close supervision. And close watch would be a welcome surprise from the Iowa legislature, entering its sixth year of full Republican control. Majority party lawmakers were quick to credit their Conservative budgets with recent surpluses, but they reliably looked away as reporters and the auditor raised their concerns. the provision of Medicaid services by private companies or the governor’s use of federal COVID-19 relief money. Rather than determining whether the Iowans are getting the services they deserve and paying with their taxes, they seem to accept the executive’s explanations as decisive.

The people of Iowa who observed the management by the state government of coronavirus test and Distributions of the CARES law One could forgive the skepticism about being cautious with infrastructure funds.

Following:Infrastructure was once a crushing bother. Now he symbolizes our sick and violent politics.

Even assuming well-intentioned administration of money, the potential pitfalls are numerous. Which highway and bridge projects have priority, and are each of them worth it? Several guest writers in the register warned that coronavirus relief money intended to connect rural residents for the first time to high-speed Internet is likely to be used instead to saturate already served suburban markets.

Are new approaches needed instead of dusting off projects first written in planning documents decades ago? The Relocation of the Regional Transit Authority of the Des Moines region partnering with ridesharing companies to provide a more granular service where an entire large bus is not needed reflects a laudable innovation – and also the difficulty of stretching public transport dollars in an area like Des Moines to make the more good.

The improvements set in motion with Biden’s signing will unfold over many years, and some are expected to last for decades. That only a handful of Republicans can bear to vote for the package could indicate a long wait for the next public investment of this magnitude. For all of these reasons, leaders in Iowa must use the utmost care in selecting and executing projects through a transparent process.

Then the Iowans can judge whether their leaders wisely spent or wasted what Biden calls this “one-time investment in a generation.”

Tell us: what should Iowa’s priorities be?

In the absence of a state government clearinghouse for infrastructure ideas, we would like to hear from experts and laypersons in Iowa: What are the best ways – including ways surprising – so Iowa can take advantage of its part of the infrastructure law? Email your ideas to [email protected]

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