“Iowa is working.” That was the theme of Governor Terry Branstad’s Condition of the State address Tuesday morning at the State Capitol.
He got a standing ovation early in the speech when saying that Iowans, working together “can overcome any challenge”. And those ovations continued throughout his address.
During most annual addresses lawmakers from a governor's party frequently stand and cheer while members of the other party stay seated. That wasn't the case with Branstad's speech, which sounded bipartisan tones and offered no controversial new topics.
“More than 25,000 people joined us through an online petition to keep Olympic wrestling, the entire Iowa Congressional delegation joined us and more than 30 other governors came together joining me in a letter to the IOC to keep wrestling. And together, we kept wrestling in the Olympics and the Olympic dreams of Iowa wrestlers alive.”
Saying that the Renewable Fuel Standards have been good for the entire country, he encouraged lawmakers to join together again against rule changes by the EPA that Branstad says, “would be a devastating setback to the agriculture sector of the Iowa economy.”
Branstad extended the “Iowa is Working” theme saying that the current unemployment rate in Iowa stands at 4.4% and that personal incomes are growing. He went on to say that student performance is improving and that, unlike Washington D.C., state government has been able to put aside political differences in “cutting taxes, improving education and modernizing health care.”
The governor also spoke about connecting Iowans, especially in rural areas, through increased broadband access, extending the freeze on instate tuition at the state's three public universities and new anti-bullying legislation for Iowa schools.
He took credit for 130, 000 new jobs created in the state, and says he has a way to get more veterans back to work.
He called his Home Base Iowa project the "centerpiece" for his agenda.The governor called on the legislature to pass the Home Base Iowa Act.
He said, “We want our veterans to know that in Iowa, if you dream it you can achieve it. In Iowa, you can find a home you can afford. In Iowa, you can find a good paying job. In Iowa, you can send your kids to a good school and they can play in a safe neighborhood. And in Iowa, we honor our veterans – not only with words and ceremonies but with action.”
Democratic Senator Leader Mike Gronstal praised Branstad's ideas and said he "liked what I heard." But he added he wanted Branstad to discuss more long-term funding certainty for the public school system and for fixing the state's roads and bridges.
Meanwhile, fellow Democratic Senator Jack Hatch, of Des Moines, offered stronger criticism.
Hatch, who will likely face Branstad in the November election, said, "This is a speech of a governor that clearly has been here too long." He added, "It's a total lack of vision, timidity, of looking at Iowa's new bold opportunities even though he's said those words, he didn't back it up with the quality of thoughtful, new ideas that Iowans have come to expect."