Governor Terry Branstad delivered his annual “Condition of the State” address to Iowa lawmakers this morning. By Branstad’s standards, it was not a partisan speech. He drew several standing ovations from legislators in both parties, and it’s easy to imagine the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate embracing most of the policies he advocated. In fact, immediately after the speech, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal told Iowa Public Television’s Dean Borg that he “didn’t hear anything” he disagreed with. Gronstal did get in a quick jab at the governor, though, pointing out that Branstad hailed “predictability” for the state budget, which is what statehouse Democrats are seeking for school districts. During the last two years, House Republicans and Branstad have refused to comply with Iowa law requiring the legislature to set allowable growth levels for K-12 school districts a year in advance.
Highlights from the governor’s speech are after the jump. Click here to read the full text, as prepared. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.
Stylistic note: for a guy who’s been in politics as long as Branstad has, he keeps his eyes glued to his script a lot. Experienced public speakers typically make more eye contact with the audience.
Branstad’s proposed budget would spend only 91 percent of projected revenues, rather than the 99 percent allowable under state law. Senate Democrats will likely call for more spending to invest in government services. Lawmakers from both parties will likely support proposals to improve job training, expand broadband service, exempt military pensions from state income tax, and help veterans find jobs in Iowa. Incidentally, former Iowa Senate President and U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell is a co-chair of Branstad’s “Home Base Iowa” initiative for veterans.
While legislators in both parties have advocated a tuition freeze for state universities, the session is likely to bring out significant differences between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over appropriate funding levels for higher education.
Branstad’s call for new legislation to address bullying in schools will probably draw more opposition from Iowa House Republicans than from Democrats.
Branstad didn’t propose any controversial changes to Iowa’s income tax structure and didn’t say a word about the “flatter” income tax idea he floated last month. He also said nothing about raising the minimum wage, which is a high priority for statehouse Democrats, or about protecting Iowa’s soil and water. The governor’s only comments about agriculture related to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard. John Hedgecoth, a former staffer for Governor Chet Culver who is working on State Senator Jack Hatch’s gubernatorial campaign, noted that Branstad said “more Iowans are receiving private insurance than ever before” but did not credit the 2010 federal health care reform law for that trend.
Sound Budgeting Principles
• Gov. Branstad’s FY15 budget spends 91% of authorized capacity, 8% below the requirement by law.
The Home Base Iowa Act
• The Home Base Iowa Act would fully exempt military pensions from state income tax, putting Iowa on more equal footing with states such as Florida and Texas, and our Midwestern neighbors such as Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
• Governor Branstad is calling on the State Board of Education to create a uniform policy granting automatic in-state tuition to veterans, their spouses, and their dependents at Iowa’s community colleges. The Regents universities already have such a policy in place.
• The Home Base Iowa Act will direct each of Iowa’s occupational licensing boards to adopt rules allowing credit for military training and experience in the licensing process.
The Connect Every Iowan Act
• The Connect Every Iowan Act contains a targeted, time-limited, and geographically-limited tax incentive to encourage build-out of ultra-high speed internet capabilities. Broadband equipment and infrastructure installed or constructed in unserved or underserved areas between the act’s effective date and December 31, 2018 would be exempt from property tax under the bill.
• The Connect Every Iowan Act moves toward ICN 2.0, repurposing the Iowa Communications Network to allow private providers to purchase.
Reducing Student Debt
• In 2013, Gov. Branstad proposed and signed the first tuition freeze at Regent universities in 30 years.
• This year, Gov. Branstad is calling on the Legislature to again freeze tuition at Regent universities.
The Bully-Free Iowa Act of 2014
• The Bully-Free Iowa Act of 2014 empowers parents by creating a parental notification requirement, directing schools to inform parents if their child is involved in a bullying incident.
• The Bully-Free Iowa Act of 2014 gives schools the discretion to respond to bullying that takes place off of school grounds if two conditions are met.
The Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act
• Apprenticeships allow students to earn while they learn, rather than taking on significant student debt. They provide the apprentice with focused, hands-on training and a paycheck from day one.
• Nationwide, there are registered apprenticeships for more than 1,000 occupations, with programs impacting 250,000 employers and approximately 450,000 apprentices. In Iowa in FY13, there were 662 registered apprenticeship programs, and over 8,100 registered apprentices.
• With over $7.5 billion in capital investments incentivized by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, demand for a skilled workforce has increased all across our state.
• The Governor’s apprenticeship bill proposes to triple funding for apprenticeships under the existing 260F worker training program.