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Power Fund deserves a checkup


Republicans in the Iowa Legislature still aren’t being specific about budget cuts, but the moment is fast approaching. At a panel discussion last week at Drake University, House Majority Leader-elect Linda Upmeyer vowed that $200 million to $300 million will be axed from the current fiscal year budget, and that such a “de-appropriation” bill will be moved in the House of Representatives within the first two weeks of the session.

The session begins Jan. 10.

Like every other constituency, the business community is waiting to see the strategy. Upmeyer said she expects a lot of good news to come out of the 2011 session for business interests.

Businesses that hope for help from the Iowa Power Fund, however, should brace for bad news. The party’s leaders seem to be unanimous in their distaste for the program, designed to boost investment in renewable energy.

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley said the list of Power Fund grants includes projects that he would not choose to invest in as a private citizen. More important, though: Government should not be “picking winners and losers.”

Upmeyer said she has heard from people who find the Power Fund application process too complicated and bureaucratic, resulting in a lot of projects failing to be considered. She said the kind of research done at Iowa State University “seems appropriate” and said the Legislature and Gov.-elect Terry Branstad “will not turn our back on renewable energy.”

We understand that they’re looking for some big examples of government largesse; small examples won’t get them to $200 million. However, a good first step on the Power Fund would be to go through the projects that have received money so far and analyze the results.

Cutting government spending certainly does seem appropriate, but every business owner knows that you have to spend money to make money. Before we kill a program, let’s find out whether it’s working.

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