Reynolds stresses worker training; She touts Future Ready Iowa
‘Workforce is my No.1 priority,’ governor says
FORT DODGE – Growing Iowa by getting the state’s residents ready for the jobs of the future is the primary goal of Gov. Kim Reynolds some nine months after becoming the state’s chief executive in a transition she describes as seamless.
“Workforce is my No. 1 priority,” Reynolds said Thursday during an interview with The Messenger.
“As I travel the state, without fail I hear from employer after employer about how optimistic they are about the future, but they just can’t find the workforce that they need,” she added.
To create that workforce, Reynolds is pushing ahead with an initiative called Future Ready Iowa, which she said would expand existing programs to train people.
The governor is also pledging to introduce a plan to cut personal income taxes, though she provided few details on it Thursday.
Reynolds said she will not seek any changes to the rules governing hog confinements.
She said there seems to be “some interest” in the Legislature for changing state law that requires a 5 cent deposit on beverage bottles and cans. She said she’s not certain what changes could be proposed for the bottle bill, and added she’ll keep her options open until she sees the actual legislation.
Reynolds, who had been lieutenant governor for six years, became Iowa’s first female chief executive on May 24, 2017, when former Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become the United States ambassador to China.
She said her seamless transition into the governor’s office is “one of the things I’m most proud of.”
“I had such a good understanding of what the chief executive did,” she said. “I was involved in all of it.”
She will be seeking her first full term in the governor’s office in this year’s election. She faces Ron Corbett, a former Cedar Rapids mayor and former speaker of the Iowa House, in the June 5 Republican primary election.
She visited Fort Dodge Thursday as part of what she calls her Unleashing Opportunity Tour of the state. She was joined by Acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. Following her interview at The Messenger, she spoke at Hy-Vee, 115 S. 29th St.
As lieutenant governor, Reynolds headed a statewide panel dedicated to finding ways to improve education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Those are the jobs of the future,” she said Thursday.
She said that during the Branstad administration, the state invested an additional $37 million in STEM education. Only three other states invested more in STEM, she said.
She is continuing a program called Future Ready Iowa. The goal of the program, she said, is to ensure that by 2025, 70 percent of Iowans have some form of post high school education.
And while the Future Ready Iowa concept is fairly new, creating a bunch of new training programs is not its goal, according to the governor.
“We believe there are a lot of good programs out there already,” she said.
The goal, she said, is to identify those programs and expand them.
Community colleges, she said, are key to providing the needed workforce training.
“We can’t do it without our community colleges,” she said. “They are integral.”
Future Ready Iowa, the governor said, will be a good way to provide job skills to people who weren’t able to complete their post high school education.
“This gives us an opportunity to work with indivduals whose life just got in the way,” she said.
Reynolds has proposed eliminating a state income tax break commonly called federal deductibility.
For years, Iowans have been able to subtract the amount they paid in federal income taxes from their state income taxes. As a result of the federal tax cut passed late last year, that deductibility is no longer a benefit for Iowans, according to Reynolds.
She said that unless something is changed this year, Iowans will see their state income taxes going up at the same time their federal income taxes are going down.
Reynolds said the tax proposal that she is still working on will simplify and “greatly reduce” state income taxes for individuals.
But eliminating federal deductiblity is the only part of the plan she’s making public so far.
“We’re still finalizing our tax package,” she said.