Iowa Gov. Chet Culver’s plans to finance $256 million in new prison construction drew questions yesterday from Iowa House Republicans and the state’s attorney general, the Des Moines Register reports. Culver, a Democrat, has proposed a prison modernization program that would include a new maximum-security prison, plus upgrading and expanding the state women’s prison. He also favors four expanding community corrections facilities and other construction projects.
Rep. Steve Lukan, ranking Republican on a state prison budget subcommittee, said the state already owes $727.2 million in principal and interest on outstanding bonds. Culver’s plan calls for issuing an additional $224.7 million in bonds to pay for the prison projects. Lukan contended the construction can be financed on a “pay as you go” basis to avoid saddling taxpayers with more debt. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, has reservations about financing $94 million in bonds with money from the state’s legal settlement with the nation’s tobacco companies.The tobacco settlement money was intended to be used for “public health, broadly construed, including to pay for the increased cost of Medicaid, which has been done rather extensively,” Miller said.