DES MOINES — A group that represents 16 of the largest chambers of commerce in Iowa is urging state lawmakers to clarify when the state’s cash reserves may be used. Iowa Chamber Alliance executive director Dustin Miller said when large scale disasters hit, like the derecho, the state’s economic emergency fund might be used to help businesses recover.
“We think Iowa can be a leader for the next crisis,” Miller said.
The state surplus at the end of the last fiscal year in June was at least $300 million, with another $700 million in reserve. Miller said having the state budget in “a stable place” is good for the business climate, but the Chamber Alliance is suggesting when the state’s cash reserves are full, those resources could be deployed to help businesses recover from future disasters.
“The budget needs to be in a certain place, with ‘Rainy Day’ funds full, but…being able to deploy those resources immediately and being a selling point for the state to be prepared for the next disaster,” Miller said.
The Iowa Chamber Alliance this week released priorities it would like the state legislature to pursue in 2021. Expanded broadband is at the top of the list, along with taking more steps to ensure there’s a “talent pool” for businesses.
“Iowa, since 1900, has grown less than 1% annually,” Miller said. “Tackling population growth is a very challenging endeavor, but it’s certainly something we think needs to happen to ensure the long term economic sustainability of existing businesses and if we want to attract businesses.”
Miller acknowledged it will take a “complicated” approach to expand the state’s workforce, including what he called “place making” that emphasizes the quality of life in Iowa communities, as well as efforts to expand child care options, enhance job training and apprenticeship programs and attract “new Americans” to the state.