Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds gave the annual Condition of the State address Tuesday morning for the third time.
The governor made major announcements regarding flood relief, mental health, water quality and income tax.
Gov. Reynolds announced adding an additional $20 million for flood relief. “To those whose lives have been impacted, your state stands with you as we work to return life to normal and get your homes, businesses, and communities back on track,” Reynolds said during the address.
Going back to when the decade started, the governor pointed out the changes in unemployment rate, school budget and the cash reserve.
She noted the decline in unemployment rate from 6.4 percent in 2010 to 2.6 percent in 2019 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
“Instead of cutting school budgets, we’re cutting taxes,” Reynolds added referring to the school budget cuts that were made in 2010.
Reynolds also said that “the cash reserve are full,” comparing it to 2010 when “the state faced a near billion-dollar deficit,” she said.
Reynolds also announced that she will be introducing “the Invest in Iowa Act.”
The bill will “significantly cut income taxes, create a sustainable funding source for our mental health system, reduce the burden of property taxpayers, and fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust.”
Describing the changes as an aid to the conservation efforts, Reynolds announced changes in the allocation of the Trust Fund.
Introducing amendments to the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust that was established 10 years ago, Reynolds announced an increase of almost 31 percent (an estimated $100 million of the Trust Fund) towards water-quality efforts.
Conservation and outdoor recreation efforts also got an increase of 14.6% of current funding.
Income tax cuts
Reynolds is also proposing to cut income taxes by an additional 10 percent. Lower-income Iowans will receive as much as a 25 percent cut next year.
Reynolds referred to the reforms made two years ago in adult mental health and Iowa’s first children’s mental health system that was established last year. She proposed changes in the sources to fund the mental health initiatives.
“I’m proposing, through the Invest in Iowa Act, that we reduce property tax levies and provide the needed funding through the State general fund.”
Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program
Reynolds announced an additional $2 million for the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program and also for modernizing and expanding the E-15 Plus Promotion Tax Credit.
“This will support the sale of E-15 year round and drive domestic demand for our homegrown renewable fuels.”
Reinstating her position on being pro-life, Reynolds said “we must protect life by making clear, through an amendment, that our constitution does not grant a right to abortion.”
Reynolds proposed a fellowship program for new family-practice physicians who want to train and specialize in OB care.
Under the program, four new residents will complete the fellowship program each year, heading back to their local communities with connections to OB specialists and an expertise to better treat mothers and their babies.
The fellowship is proposed in response to providing care for mother outside the urban areas.
Reynolds also spoke about the launch of a tele-mentoring system which will enable the physicians to consult with OB’s across the state.
Under the telehealth initiative, schools will be able to partner with telehealth providers, especially for behavioral health.
Calling broadband a “critical infrastructure,” Reynolds requested to “appropriate an additional $15 million and adjust our state match” to be able continue “leveraging private and federal funding to build out broadband to every part of Iowa.”
She also emphasized the impact of broadband on farmers, on local businesses and education.
Reynolds is calling on the Legislature to take computer science statewide to ensure that every student has access to basic computer science skills.
Reynolds recognized Osage Community Schools and NewBoCo for their efforts to include computer science in the curriculum.
She also emphasized the efforts towards work-based learning.
“In the last year alone, we’ve expanded high-school registered apprenticeships and launched the work-based learning clearinghouse,
and this year will be adding $1 million for work-based learning coordinators to be covered by operational-sharing agreements.”
The governor mentioned Council Bluffs an an example of a partnership among the school district, Iowa Western Community College, and several local businesses who have partnered to create TradeWorks Academy.
The academy allows high-school students to work with professionals
to experience what it’s like to have a career as a plumber, electrician, or mechanic.
Reynolds believes that the program will help students learn skills that lead to life-long careers and also help “local businesses get the workforce they so desperately need.”
The governor announced over $103 million in new funding for the schools in Iowa “to maintain the best teachers and classrooms in the world.”
Talking about the workforce, the governor mentioned the Future Ready Iowa and spoke about the Last Dollar Scholarship and the Employer Innovation Fund, both of which are aimed at preparing the workforce for the career.
The governor also mentioned a program in Muscatine where a local community foundation has partnered with Eastern Iowa Community College where low-income parents who have children in school go through an intensive six-week training program.
The governor spoke about the expansion of the Early Childhood tax credits which is currently available to families making less than $45,000. She is recommending to double that amount. She also added that “a tiered co-pay system” should be implemented “that doesn’t punish those who work hard enough to earn a raise. “
Criminal Justice Reform
Reynolds mentioned “the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform” while talking about correctional facilities.
“This committee, which is chaired by the Lt. Gov., includes law enforcement, corrections officials, the NAACP, and a wide range of stakeholders. Last month, they provided several recommendations, and we are already in the process of implementing many of them.”
Reynolds spoke about the legislation she signed last year that “protects employers who are willing to give returning citizens a second chance.”
She also mentioned the roundtables that were hosted at the correctional facilities in Mitchellville and Rockwell City where more than 80 employers stepped inside the prison walls “to learn how they can meet their workforce needs and give an Iowan a second chance at a productive and rewarding life.”
She also reinstated her support to allow felons to vote after they have served their sentence.
Referring to a recent study which shows that licensing system cost Iowa 48,000 jobs and $290 million, Reynolds said “licensing requirements are also the worst for low-income people, meaning that those who need opportunity the most have the hardest time getting a license.”
She proposed changes in order to modernized the licensing structure- adoption of universal licensing recognition and waiving license fees for low-income individuals.
She also mentioned the lack of uniform standard for considering criminal convictions in licensure as a result of which “qualified and skilled Iowans are being denied the chance to obtain a license because of mistakes unrelated to the profession they now want to enter. This is another barrier to ex-offenders reentering the workforce and we need to change it,” Reynolds added.
She also called for the creation of a committee “that will, every four years, review every professional license requirement and the boards that oversee them.”