Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
DES MOINES — House Democrats welcomed increases in funding for tourism and child care in majority Republicans’ economic development budget, but not so much that they voted for it.
The GOP budget increased funding for regional tourism and marketing by $286,000 to nearly $1.2 million, according to Rep. Phil Thompson, R-Jefferson, who chairs the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. The overall budget presented Tuesday called for $49.7 million in general fund dollars and $28.1 million from other funds.
Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt of Cedar Rapids, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, appreciated the increase, but said funding was still far short of the $5 million that had been requested from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
"I think that maybe we could have looked at moving some dollars around and other places to put that money there,“ she said.
Likewise, Rep. Tracy Ehlert, D-Cedar Rapids, was excited about the $3 million in the budget for child care challenge grants to spur investment in those facilities and services.
“However, I think we could do a lot more with it,” said Ehlert, an early childhood educator. The funds may help create more child care slots, "but we're still not doing anything to help our existing child cares that are already here and are struggling and are shutting down.“ They could expand and serve more families with state assistance to increase staffing, "rather than just building bright, new shiny programs.”
She suggested putting the state dollars into existing facilities, "helping the ones that have been here through COVID, through the derecho, all the child care shortages.“
Rep. Steve Hansen, D-Sioux City, also wanted to see more funding for the Department of Cultural Affairs, which “has been shortchanged for numerous years now.” The department is important in maintaining and improving the quality of life that attracts and retains the Iowa workforce, said Hansen, a museum director.
The budget was approved on a party-line vote with Democrats saying they would be offering amendments to address the budget’s shortcomings during floor debate.
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