The Jeneary Journal (February 23, 2023)
I would like to thank everyone who sent condolences to my family on the untimely passing of my brother in law, Brian Maass. The outpouring of prayers was most gratifying.
Here’s an update on this discussions we had this week.
Iowa’s Bond Debt Situation – The End Is Still A Long Ways Away
Just like home mortgages, payments on bonds issued by the state seem to go on forever. And while the state of Iowa has a significantly-lower amount of outstanding bond debt when compared to other states, the cost of these bonds still has a big impact on what can be done to address state infrastructure needs of today and tomorrow.
In 2009, Governor Chet Culver and legislative Democrats believed it was wise fiscal policy for the state to borrow $800 million for a variety of state and local infrastructure projects. The I-Jobs program, as it was called, ended up primarily financing the repairs to the University of Iowa in the aftermath of the floods of 2008.
Perhaps the biggest ongoing impact of the I-Jobs program is the continual debt service payments for this ill-fated scheme. The state issued $695 million of bonds backed by the state’s gaming tax revenue. Here in 2023, the state still owes $354.1 million of the bonds’ principal alone. The state will pay approximately $55 million this year from state gaming tax collections to the holders of these bonds, instead of using the funds for needed repairs and new construction at state facilities. The payments on all the I-Jobs bonds will not end until Fiscal Year 2034.
Another portion of the I-Jobs program was the issuance of $115 million academic building revenue bonds by the Iowa Board of Regents. The Legislature authorized this series of bonds to fund construction projects at the three state universities. While the bonds are backed by tuition revenue from each school, the state actually makes the payment via the Tuition Replacement line item in the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF).
The I-Jobs bond and other previous academic building revenue bonds are still being paid off today. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state appropriated $27.9 million from RIIF for the year’s payment on these bonds. And still, there is $240.5 million of principle owed on the outstanding 18 bond series, and interest too. The last payments on these bonds will not be made until the end of Fiscal Year 2036.
The other major bond payment made by the state pays for the construction of the state’s maximum security prison. In 2007, the Democrat-led Legislature authorized the selling of bonds to finance the building of a new Iowa State
Penitentiary at Fort Madison. Today, the state is still making annual payments on the 20-year bonds. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state will pay $13.8 million of judicial revenue for this bond. The state still owes $48.9 million in principle that will finally be paid off at the end of 2027.
HF 368: Protecting Landowner Rights
- This week, House Republicans moved a bill forward to create additional protections for landowners as three major CO2 pipeline projects are in the works in Iowa.
- This bill:
- Requires carbon capture pipeline companies to reach voluntary easements for 90% of the land on their route before they could seek to use eminent domain.
- Grants landowners the right to sue companies for damages caused by pipelines to things like drainage, soil compaction and irrigation systems.
- Requires CO2 pipeline companies to get all necessary permits in other states before attempting to use eminent domain in Iowa.
- This bill has passed subcommittee and is still making its way through the process. Many of the ideas in the current language were brought to the legislature by the Iowa Farm Bureau.
- I understand that this bill may not be seen as perfect by folks on either side of this issue. We want to support the ethanol industry while ensuring landowners rights are respected. We think this bill strikes that balance.
- Ultimately, property rights work both ways – for folks that want the pipeline and folks that don’t. However, these pipeline companies should not be able to use the heavy hand of government to abuse landowner rights.
Fun Fact: Iowa utilizes the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to maintain clean and accurate voter lists. ERIC’s operating costs are funded entirely by annual dues paid by the member states. This partnership with 30 other states helps us identify deceased voters, voters who have moved both in state and out of state, and voters who might have cast a ballot in more than one state during an election.
ERIC is an effective tool for ensuring the integrity of Iowa’s voter rolls, and the Iowa Legislature agreed and made our membership in ERIC a state law in 2021. In less than one year, the program helped Iowa identify more than 1,300 deceased voters who were not included in the Iowa Department of Public Health’s data. ERIC does not have access to Iowa’s voter registration system and does not make changes to Iowa’s voter rolls. List maintenance activity, including changes to voter records, are done entirely by local and state election officials.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.