Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds delivered her Condition of the State Address on Tuesday. Reynolds opened her remarks by thanking those serving in the military, in law enforcement and as first responders.
“The job of government, above all else, is to provide for the health and safety of its citizens,” she said. “They risk their lives for us. And some of them give the ultimate sacrifice.”
After talking about how Iowans worked together to recover from last year’s disasters, Reynolds reminded the Legislature they need to do the same.
“Working across the aisle isn’t an impossible task,” she said. “We’ve done it. And by continuing to put Iowans first, we honor four public servants, whose belief in diplomacy, principles and bipartisanship made an incredible difference in millions of lives.”
Those four lives were President George H.W. Bush, Governor Robert Ray, Congressman Leonard Boswell and Senator John Culver.
“If we’ve learned anything from the passing of these public servants, it’s this: Working together, with deep resolve, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed possible,” Reynolds said.
The governor, who is coming off her first gubernatorial election victory, hit on the following policy ideas:
*Future Ready Iowa: “Future Ready Iowa recognizes that there is dignity in meaningful work,” Reynolds said. “That Iowans yearn for the opportunity to better themselves, and that those opportunities exist right here in Iowa.”
*Increased education spending: In addition to touting STEM programs, Reynolds proposed more than $93 million in additional funding for preschool through high school education. She also requested $11.2 million to help districts with disproportionate transportation costs. Tack on another $1 million for increased STEM funding and that is $105.2 million more for education. that brings preK-12 spending to almost $3.4 billion this year, the governor said.
*Revitalization of rural Iowa: Reynolds created the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative, a partnership between Reynolds’ office and the Iowa Rural Development Council.
“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.
Reynolds requested $20 million, split over two years, for broadband infrastructure. Housing is an issue in rural communities as well, she said, which is why she’s requesting to double the amount of workforce housing tax credits set aside for rural communities, with a total of $10 million.
She announced the establishment of a Center for Rural Revitalization within the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
*Mental health reform: Reynolds said she set aside an additional $11 million in her two-year Medicaid budget to help the mental health regions. She called on the Legislature to extend the time the 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.
Reynolds’ own budget proposes to fund additional psychiatric residencies at the University of Iowa for doctors who will practice in rural communities. She also asked the Legislature to appropriate additional money to train nurse practitioners and physician assistants in mental health.
Creating a children’s mental health system is a priority, she said. Reynolds requested $3 million to train teachers to better recognize early signs of mental illness.
*Prison reforms: Reynolds praised the apprenticeship program in Iowa’s state prisons.
“Too often, employers overlook these skilled workers because of the fear of lawsuits,” Reynolds said. “Let’s take that off the table.”
Reynolds requested a bill from the Legislature to send her a bill with protections for employers who hire Iowans with criminal records.
She encouraged the state to restore the voting rights of felons.