As he begins his 20th year as governor, Terry Branstad called on lawmakers to put aside differences to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of Iowans seeking the Iowa Dream “ of opportunity and prosperity which can become a reality for every Iowan willing to work for it.”
In his annual Condition of the State speech to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature Tuesday morning, the fifth-term Republican, who is expected to seek an unprecedented sixth term, said those obstacles can be overcome with the “sense of community and collaboration that defines us as Iowans.”
“We should again attack our problems with the same common sense and seriousness as Iowans across our state: working hard, working together and working to make things better than we found them,” Branstad said.
The seeds of the Iowa Dream have been planted in the three years since he returned to office, Branstad said, and “now we must cultivate that dream of opportunity -- of a great job and a great place to raise a family.”
To that end, Branstad laid out a limited agenda. He wants to attract military veterans to Iowa by expanding the regents’ universities’ offer of in-state tuition for them and their families to include community colleges, exempting military pensions from state income tax, and recognizing military training and experience in the occupational licensing process.
Branstad also called for limited, targeted tax incentives to encourage the build-out of ultra-high speed Internet capacity, and developing ICN 2.0, a repurposed Iowa Communications Network to partner with the private sector to provide Internet connectivity in underserved areas of Iowa.
He wants to empower parents in the fight against bullying by directing schools to inform parents if their child is involved in a bullying incident and giving schools discretion to respond -- under certain conditions -- to bullying that occurs off school grounds.
Along with more than $7.5 billion in capital investments in Iowa business and industry since he returned to office in 2011, Branstad said, there has been an increased demand for a skilled workforce. To meet that challenge, he called for tripling state funds for apprenticeships.
And to help Iowa college students and their families, he called for providing funds to enable the Board of Regents to freeze tuition for a second year in a row.
And just as he and lawmakers last year challenged the International Olympic Committee to keep wrestling as an Olympic sport, Branstad called for a similar effort to defeat a federal proposal to reduce the level of biofuels required by the Renewable Fuels Standard.
It would be devastating to Iowa’s ag economy at a time that the state and Iowa State University are implementing pioneering policies to encourage growth and innovation in the renewable energy sector, he said. The governor asked the Legislature to pass a resolution in support of maintaining a “robust” RFS.
In the final analysis, Branstad said, “Iowa is working,” but that’s not enough.
“I believe we can -- and we must -- dream even bigger,” he said.“Now is not the time to shy away from the challenges and the opportunities,” Branstad said. “Now is the time to embrace them, to be bold, to move Iowa forward, to increase the competitiveness of our state and its people today and for years to come.”