Governor touts Future Ready Iowa

‘I?think they could take a lesson from the way we do things in Iowa’

-Freeman Journal photo by Joe Sutter Gov. Kim Reynolds talks with Scott Rector at his Second Street Emporium Friday, a busy day after cold temperatures began to subside a bit. Reynolds also had a busy week of traveling around Iowa to visit with business owners.

Touting her call for funding of her signature jobs program — Future Ready Iowa — and for housing and revitalization of rural Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds also criticized federal officials who “play politics” instead of getting things done during a visit to Webster City Friday.

Reynolds visited the Second Street Emporium for lunch as a part of her Condition of the State tour, and met Scott and Candy Rector who have owned the downtown restaurant for 39 years.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think they could take a lesson from the way we do things here in Iowa,” Reynolds said, when asked about the federal government’s recent shutdown and the potential for another shutdown in less than a month. “We got a lot done in a bipartisan manner. Many big issues we did in a unanimous measure.

“I think it’s just ridiculous they can’t come to the table, both parties–it seems to be a real opportunity for some big wins, whether it’s DACA reform, securing the borrder, answering some of the things that both parties have refused to deal with for a long time,” she continued. “Hopefully they can get something done. I’m less than optimistic. I certainly haven’t seen it.”

The U.S. Congress needs to work together to encourage trade, Reynolds said, acknowledging that Iowa farmers have been hurt by trade restrictions and uncertainty.

“We need Congress to ratify USMCA (the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, an alternative to NAFTA). That’s the next step,” she said. “They need to do it as soon as possible– and this is really important, so I hope they don’t play politics with this.”

Reynolds’ office recently announced that the European Union has cleared the way to start buying biodeiesel produced from U.S. soybeans.

Later this week, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will take an international trade mission to Colombia and Panama. Both the governor and lieutenant governor typically make a trade mission trip every year, Reynolds said, guided by research from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“They make the recommendation to our office on where we should go for those,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity in South America, and I look forward to hearing how the trade mission went.”

During her Condition of the State address, Reynolds called for $20 million to fund her Future Ready Iowa plan which was approved last year.

Her tour is a chance to ask businesses what they see, and to make sure the state is on the right track, Reynolds said.

But before she can even ask what are a business’s biggest barriers, “I don’t even get to ask. They just bring up workforce,” she said. “Yesterday I met with four. From Marshalltown to Cedar Falls to Cedar Rapids to Muscatine… They have seen five years of growth. In the last three years a lot of them have indicated it’s double-digit growth.

“And right now they’re really feeling the pressure; they could continue growing, they just need a skilled workforce.”

About $7 million was put into the program last year, she said; a “relatively small amount” because the budget has been tight.

“And because the budget is balanced, and our cash reserves are full and revenue is coming in pretty good, we actually have the revenue to invest in it this year,” she said.

Fort Dodge, Webster City and the surrounding region can benefit from her Empower Rural Iowa Initiative, Reynolds said.

“We did that a couple ways. Broadband and connectivity — I’ve asked to put additional funding in that that will let us leverage private sector funding,” she said. “I’ve called for $20 million over two years, which will leverage over $120 million because it’s a matching component.

“We’ve focused on housing, because it’s workforce housing. … So we’ve doubled the workforce housing tax credit that’s set aside for rural Iowa.”

Reynolds is hopeful for bipartisan cooperation in this year’s session because there’s agreement on some measures that are good for Iowa, she said.

“There’s really a chance for us to continue the bipartisan work because it’s funding. It’s implementing a lot of the programs we put in place last year, and working together,” she said.

“The children’s mental health system, that should get tremendous bipartisan support. And then funding for the adult mental health system, as well, and Future Ready Iowa.”

Reynolds’ proposal to automatically restore the voting rights of felons after they complete their sentences also has broad support, she said.

Currently, Iowa bars former felons from voting unless the governor grants their requests to restore their rights.

“They had their first subcommittee meeting in the House yesterday. And you know, we said, it’s not very often you see the groups there that are very diverse on a lot of other issues, all supporting it,” Reynolds said. “The ACLU, the Family Leader, the NAACP, Americans for Prosperity.

“We need to put some pressure on the Senate. They’re not quite where they need to be, so we’re going to do that because it’s the right thing to do.”