For decades, Hawkeye State voters have been inclined to give new governors ample time to achieve their goals. It became almost routine to give them a second term. This year, however, there are two powerful reasons to abandon that tradition.
First, Gov. Chet Culver's leadership has proved woefully inadequate during a time of grave economic crisis.
Second, former Gov. Terry Branstad, the Republican candidate for governor, demonstrated during four successful terms as the state's chief executive that he knows how to accomplish those goals most critical to Iowa's economic recovery:
Balancing the state budget while preserving essential state services; and
Creating a business environment conducive to job creation.
Branstad has an impressive plan for reducing the cost of government and reallocating resources. He is determined to bring about state budgets that adequately fund necessary programs, but also are realistic about what Iowa taxpayers can reasonably bear.
"It is time to stop playing shell games with taxpayer dollars, stop erratic budget fixes and start talking honestly about the state's finances," Branstad said in announcing his game plan.
That message is precisely on target.
So too is Branstad's strategy for putting more people to work in good jobs. He knows that this is an absolutely vital priority at a time when more than 100,000 of our fellow Iowans are seeking employment. The state's unemployment rate is better than the national average, but the worst Iowa has experienced in more than two decades.
The Branstad plan will revamp taxes and regulations to stimulate the creation of 200,000 private-sector jobs. Iowans know that Branstad can deliver on a promise to restore common sense to state government and stimulate economic growth. He did it once before. He can do it again.
Branstad's time as governor was an era when difficult problems were addressed with unusual competence. No-nonsense common sense was the order of the day. Perhaps that's why - according to data released by Branstad - when he was governor, state spending averaged $1,700 per person while under Culver that has jumped nearly 18 percent in constant dollars to $2,000 per person. It may also explain why in 1999 Branstad ended his tenure as governor with a $900 million state surplus. That's in sharp contrast to the nearly $1 billion shortfall Culver visited upon this state.
In seeking a return to the state's top office, Branstad is not relying on nostalgia for an earlier era. He is thinking clearly about the future, not romanticizing the past. If, however, when Iowans go to the polls they are influenced in part by accurate memories of the professionalism that characterized Branstad's time as governor that would be a good thing.
The Daily Freeman-Journal enthusiastically endorses Terry Branstad for governor. No one is better-qualified to lead Iowa back to prosperity. Iowa needs Branstad back in the governor's office. Our state must not endure four more years of failure and drift with Chet Culver at the helm.Iowa needs Terry Branstad.