DES MOINES – Gov. Terry Branstad’s chief rival in the 2014 governor’s race Tuesday criticized the incumbent Republican for taking a politically safe and easy legislative course while ignoring the important problems that are holding back job and income growth.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, said there were ideas the governor put forth in Tuesday’s Condition of the State address that he could embrace, but he did not hear bold leadership on ways to upgrade the state’s critical transportation and infrastructure needs, bolster education from preschool to college, grow Iowa’s rural economy or boost employee wages.
“I think this is the speech of a governor who clearly has been here too long,” Hatch told a Statehouse news conference about a half hour after the five-term GOP governor addressed a joint session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly.
“The governor’s agenda is timid, lukewarm, retreads of the past,” the Des Moines Democrat said.
“It’s really too bad that the governor is focusing more on his record of longevity than on Iowa’s bold future,” Hatch added. “He’s just looking at how he can govern in the easiest way and not how to get things accomplished.”
At the start of his 20th year as governor, Branstad urged legislators and Iowans to “dream even bigger” by working hard and working together to deal with problems confronting the state.
“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.”
Included in his limited agenda was a plan 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.
He also called for tripling state funds for apprenticeship to meet the demand for a skilled workforce, freezing tuition for instate residents attending Iowa’s three regent universities, adopting anti-bullying measures and expanding access to broadband Internet.
Hatch said he could support many of the governor’s proposals but overall he said Branstad offered a “total lack of vision and timidity of looking at Iowa’s new, bold opportunities”
“Even though he has said those words, he didn’t back it up with the quality of thoughtful, new ideas that Iowans have come to expect from their governors,” he said.
“It’s really too bad that the governor is focusing more on his record of longevity than on Iowa’s bold future,” added Hatch, who along with Paul Dahl of Webster City are the Democratic candidates lining up to take on Branstad in his expected bid for a sixth term in November 2014.
“Our approaches are very different,” Hatch said in contrasting himself to Branstad. “I believe in straight talk over political nonsense. I believe in telling people not what they want to hear but what we have to do to accomplish our goals. I believe in the dreams of the future and not the history of the past.”
Hatch also took issue with Branstad’s reference in his speech to having created 130,000 jobs since taking office in January 2011. The Des Moines Democrat said the net jobs gain is closer to 47,000 if the 89,000 jobs that were lost during that same period are taken into account.
Tommy Schultz, Branstad-Reynolds communications director, quickly refuted Hatch’s claims.
“Gov. Branstad gave a compelling and inspiring vision for the state of Iowa during his Condition of the State address today,” Schultz said in a statement.
“The statewide unemployment rate is at a five-year low of 4.4 percent due to Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds’ policies that have created more than 130,000 new jobs and fostered robust economic development.
The bold new initiatives — including a freeze in student tuition at regents institutions, anti-bullying measures, an elimination in taxes on veterans’ pensions, broadband connectivity to assist rural communities economically, and apprenticeship programs and skill development for workers — that Gov. Branstad outlined in his address today were applauded by legislators on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Jack Hatch and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.”
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