Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 22, 2018

Reynolds focuses on state’s bright spots

By Jon Gilrain, Ledger Correspondent | Feb 19, 2018
Photo by: JON GILRAIN/Ledger photo Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses a crowd in Revelations Cafe Friday morning. Also pictured are Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, left, and State Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa).

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addressed a crowded room Friday at Revelations Cafe in Fairfield on her Unleashing Opportunity tour.

The governor touted bright spots in Iowa’s outlook and policy drivers for 2018, as well as fielding questions from gathered residents. The tour follows January’s historic Condition of the State address and largely reflected the themes of that speech.

Reynolds’ remarks highlighted encouraging statistics about the state beginning with the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

“The condition of Iowa is good and unemployment is at a 17-year low and we have one of the lowest costs of doing business in the country, not only as an ag state, but as a manufacturing state where it’s so important for us to remain competitive,” she said.

The governor attributed much of the success to a productive legislature stating, “Last legislative session I think will go down in history as being one of the most pro-job and pro-growth in decades and I think we’re starting to see some positive results from that.”

She went on to cite that a recent study by 24/7 Wall St. that ranked Iowa as the third best managed state in the country across a variety of economic, fiscal and social measures. The state also ranked No. 1 for middle class families and number one in the country for high school students graduating and for students duel-enrolling in community college courses while attending high school.

According to Reynolds, a major win for the state has been an investment of $735 million of new money over seven years into the K-12 education system for a total of $3.3 billion. She mentioned that a recent study going back 10 years showed only three other states had invested in K-12 at a higher rate than Iowa. The governor cautioned however not to “measure success by the sheer number of dollars that go into it.”

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg also addressed the group beginning with the honor he experienced witnessing with his family the Condition of the State address.

“As I reflected on the speech later that evening, I thought especially about my 4-year old daughter. I thought about how special and how neat is it that one of her very first memories could very well be of witnessing our first woman governor delivering her first Condition of the State, standing strong and providing leadership for our state.”

Gregg went on to list off some of the companies that were adding the many hundreds of jobs to the state. He summed up with Iowa Workforce Development’s iowajobs.org statistic for the total number of jobs available today in the state of Iowa at 60,871.

The governor took questions from the Fairfield audience covering a number of topics, with the first question asked by the head of Maharishi School in Fairfield, Dr. Richard Beall.

“As the heads of any school would these days, we’re thinking very deeply and commiserating with the people in Florida,” referring to last week’s tragic school shooting in that state.

Beall identified and put forward to the governor three emerging themes in the national discussion about the shooting. “We’ve heard three general reactions to those tragic events, one has to do with gun control, one has to do with mental health and one has to do with school security.”

The governor responded with empathy for the parents and grandparents of those school children and acknowledged the complexity of the issue. Addressing the gun control piece she said, “I think as rational people we have to sit down and evaluate what’s going on. It’s a very emotional time. You can’t just blame it all on the gun. There’s a lot of other issues behind it.”

Reynolds pointed to the mental health dimension of the problem and the importance of addressing the needs of vulnerable Iowans and she also touched on school safety and preparedness training programs for school districts and local boards of education as this problem continues to happen, adding “I think every aspect of that is a part of the conversation.”

Ideal Energy founder Troy Van Beek pointed the governor’s attention to Iowa Senate File 2311, an act modifying various provisions relating to public utilities. “In our opinion this will devastate solar jobs in Iowa,” said the entrepreneur.

Reynolds responded with pride at Iowa’s leadership role in the renewable energies industry, but acknowledge the complexities of the bill and its House counterpart and the legislative process, “It’s a very comprehensive bill that deals with a lot of different areas. It’s going through the process right now, which gives people the opportunity to weigh in and talk about the impact that some of the proposed legislation has.”

In a followup conversation with The Ledger, Van Beek clarified his concerns about the bill stating, “It takes consumer advocacy away and allows rate hikes to pass very rapidly and major elements of the bill could decimate our industry.” He conceded that he thought the governor had a credible concern for jobs in Iowa and his industry and hoped that she would weigh in on the process at the appropriate time.

The first female governor took several more questions relating to gun violence, gun laws and mental health issues before ending the Q and A part of the presentation and departing for the next stop on her tour.

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