Four years after he made his political comeback, Gov. Terry Branstad says the state also has made a comeback.
“But we’re not done yet,” Branstad, who is kicking off his campaign for a sixth term, said in Cedar Rapids Friday.
Just as he did in his Condition of the State speech Tuesday, Branstad laid out few new initiatives, but promised more of the same: more tax cutting, more job creation, more pursuit of educational achievement, more private capital investment and more state government downsizing.
“I love this state,” he said at a campaign appearance at Diamond V’s production facility in southwest Cedar Rapids. “I was sick of the direction it was going. I’m really proud of the changes we’ve made and where we are today. I think the future looks much, much brighter.”
Branstad didn’t take all of the credit. Much of the credit belongs to companies like Diamond V, a 71-year-old Iowa company that has invested more than $60 million in facilities in the past five years and has just approved another $30 million expansion, get credit, too, he said.
“That doesn’t happen by accident,” Branstad said later. The largest property tax cut in history, a commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to prepare students for new jobs like those being created at Diamond V, and shrinking the size and cost of state government are all factors in reducing unemployment and attracting $7.5 billion of capital investment in Iowa since he took office in 2011.
During that time, added Rep. Quentin Stanerson, R-Center Point, unemployment in Linn County has dropped from 6.4 percent to 4.2.
Branstad repeated the themes of his campaign kick-off announcement earlier this week, asking his audience “Are you ready to build Iowa’s future?”
As he listens to Iowans share their dreams, Branstad said, he’s “energized and encouraged to dream even bigger.”
However, his presumptive Democratic challenger, Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines, has been critical of Branstad for the lack of a dream.
Iowans, Hatch said, deserve a governor who will deliver solutions “instead of sweeping them under the rug in favor of more politically convenient issues that will help him rack up another election in his quest to be the longest serving governor in U.S. history.”
Polling has shown Branstad with a comfortable lead over Hatch. Just in case, however, six-term Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was on hand to lend his support.
“He’s a chief executive who’s gotten us out of one of the biggest fiscal holes our state’s ever been in,” Grassley said about Branstad. The governor, he noted, has been able to cut taxes and isn’t spending more than the state takes in.
“The question isn’t government spending. It’s about who we’re spending it on,” according to Hatch.
He’s called for spending more on health care for low-income Iowans and mental health services rather than giving away millions in tax credits for 165 jobs.