Reynolds calls for more job training, education, health care funding in annual address01/15/2019 | Soybean News, Economics
By Aaron Putze, APR
In her second Condition of the State Address – and her first as Iowa’s elected chief executive officer – Gov. Kim Reynolds declared the condition of the state strong while stressing more funding for education, workforce housing, job training and mental health services.
“Because of our people and the power of their ingenuity, Iowa is soaring,” she said, heralding the state’s balanced budget, significant cash reserves and unemployment at an all-time low.
Education and job preparedness received significant attention during the Governor’s nearly 35-minute address.
Reynolds’ proposed budget includes more than $93 million in additional funding for preschool through high school education, which includes a 2.3% increase in per pupil funding. She’s also requesting $11.2 million to help school districts with disproportionate transportation costs and $1 million increase in STEM funding.
“In total, that will bring our pre K-12 investment to almost $3.4 billion this year,” Reynolds said.
Developing the state’s rural communities and economy is also critical, the governor said, if Iowa is to retain its character while ensuring future growth and prosperity.
Access to high-speed internet, housing and mental health care services are critical, Reynolds said. So, too, is a dedicated focus on revitalizing and transforming communities, main streets and Iowa’s K-12 schools.
She used today’s platform to announce the establishment of a Center for Rural Revitalization within the Iowa Economic Development Authority. This center, she said, will focus on making rural Iowa an even greater priority while giving main streets a roadmap for success.
“It’s no secret, we need to keep our rural communities connected if we hope to keep our young people or attract others to Iowa,” she said. “Over a century ago, a town’s proximity to the railroad was key. Over the last 100 years, our focus has been on highways and interstates. Now, it’s virtual connectivity that’s essential.
“Businesses, schools, hospitals, and even our combines, rely on high-speed internet.”
To further address Iowa’s worker shortage, Reynolds emphasized more apprenticeship programs for prison inmates and legislation protecting businesses that employ Iowans with criminal records.
Health care focus
She also dwelled on health care services, another topic of importance to Iowa farm families as they struggle with rising premiums and deductibles.
The governor requested an additional $11 million in her two-year Medicaid budget and called on legislators to extend the time regions have to spend down their capital balances and to increase the percentage of their operating budgets that may be carried from one year to the next.
“There may still be more to do, so I’m asking everyone in this chamber to work with me to ensure that we have sustainable funding that will keep our mental health system strong,” she said.
- Urged legislators to appropriate additional money for home- and community-based children’s mental health services to eliminate waiting lists for care;
- Requested $3 million to train teachers to better recognize early signs of mental illness;
- Is asking educators, mental health professionals, parents, legislators and children’s advocates to devise a plan and create a structure for a children’s mental health system.
Reynolds concluded her remarks to a packed chamber with a renewed call for bipartisanship.
“Over the next few months, I look forward to working with all of you to enact these priorities and yours,” she said. “Whether it’s looking for ways to further reform our tax code, or passing legislation that strengthens our health care system, I am excited for what’s in store.
The time is now to cement Iowa’s status as the best state in the nation,” she concluded. “The time is now to deliver on the promises we’ve made to Iowans looking for a way up.”
Starts with farming
Issues emphasized by Reynolds have a profound impact on farmers, said Iowa Soybean Association policy director Michael Dolch.
Conversely, a healthy ag economy is vital to generating the funding needed for a myriad of programs and services benefiting all Iowans.
“She placed an emphasis squarely on rural communities across the state,” he said. “Making up a significant percentage of rural Iowa, farmers are the lifeblood of this state, helping move the economy forward.
“We’ll continue to drive the message that when farmers do well, their communities grow and succeed,” he added. “We look forward to working with the governor’s office and state legislature to address the health of rural Iowa and the agriculture industry through modernized infrastructure and improved connectivity.”
Democrats provided tactic support for the programs and spending priorities outlined by the governor.
“Overall, her remarks gave us a lot of issues that we can work on together but as is often said, the devil is in the details,” said Rep. Jo Oldson (D-Des Moines).
“As it always is, there are lots of issues we can come together on… we want to educate our kids and fund health care,” she added. “But it always comes down to the details and how we execute.”
Putze serves as Iowa Soybean Association Communications Director. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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