Infrastructure bill highlights maintenance issues in Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Republican-controlled House on Monday passed a budget bill that would pay for some infrastructure projects in Iowa, but debate over the measure highlights growing maintenance issues not included in the legislation.

The chamber voted 62-30 for a roughly $84 million budget bill. The version passed previously in the Democratic-majority Senate proposed about $108 million, and the differences are expected to be sorted out in a special legislative committee.

Rep. Daniel Huseman, R-Aurelia and chairman of a budget group that reviewed the bill, said there's limited funding available and "we'll just have to do the best we can."

The legislation includes dollars from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, which collects gambling tax money and is separate from the general fund. The Senate version, passed on April 20, proposes spending money on projects that range from furnishing a county justice center to updating the state's voter registration system. The House doesn't include money for the furnishing and reduces dollars for the registration system.

Some House Democrats said ahead of the vote that lawmakers needed to direct more money to ongoing maintenance of some buildings in the state. The Iowa Department of Administrative Services estimates nearly $290 million is needed on more than 400 major maintenance projects in the state.

The Senate proposes spending over $11 million on such projects for the budget year that goes into effect in July. The House bill appropriates $5.5 million.

"We have a responsibility to the state and the people of Iowa to make sure that these buildings are repaired when they need it," said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. "It feels like we just kick the can down the road."

Three buildings in need of renovations — the state historical museum, a building near the Capitol that houses state agencies and a facility maintained by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy — each received $1 in the infrastructure bill. Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said the appropriations are part of an effort to push a bonding plan that would borrow more than $100 million to renovate the buildings.

House Republicans and Gov. Terry Branstad have said they don't want to borrow money. Each building has a range of maintenance issues, including reports of black mold at the academy facility. It's possible none of the buildings will receive money for the next fiscal year.

Huseman acknowledged the mold issues at the academy facility.

"I think it's going to be one of our priorities here moving forward," he said.


This version of the story corrects the amount of money appropriated in the different versions of the budget bill.

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