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Lawmakers question Vilsack's money request

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Some state lawmakers are questioning Gov. Tom Vilsack's request for more than $300,000 to pay for security costs when about three dozen governors meet in Des Moines this summer.

Vilsack has proposed the spending _ earmarked for the National Governors Association meeting in July _ as part of a $213 million supplemental spending bill. A member of the national organization's executive committee, Vilsack also proposed another million dollars for other host city costs including receptions and transportation.

Republicans in the evenly split Senate and closely divided House, where they hold a slim 51-49 edge, said they question the request at a time when the state is facing a shortfall that reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We have many more pressing needs that the people of Iowa expect us to fund than the National Governors Association's needs," said Rep. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, who heads the House Appropriations Committee.

Matt Paul, a spokesman for Vilsack, a Democrat, said the governor sees the four-day event as a chance to gain national attention as well as bring as many as 1,500 tourists to the state.

"It's a tremendous marketing opportunity for Iowa and our businesses," he said.

The Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the economic impact of the meeting, held last year in Seattle, at as high as $1.5 million.

"This is obviously a very high-profile event for Des Moines and for Iowa. It's almost like what the Iowa caucuses were with all the media and all the dignitaries that reception costs as well, officials said.

Other governors' whose state's hosted the annual meeting in recent years have asked their Legislature to approve such spending, said Chris LaPaille, a spokeswoman for the National Governors Association.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, "security costs have really skyrocketed," she said.

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