In Condition of the State address, Governor Reynolds charted a bold course for Iowa that included a significant tax reform proposal and calls for improvements to Iowans’ quality of life.
The Governor declared that the Condition of the State is strong. Iowa is enjoying record-low unemployment rate, its cash reserves are full, and wages are on the rise.
Her major proposal of the speech came early and combined tax reform with mental health funding and water quality and quality of life. The Invest in Iowa Act would increase the sales tax to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust. It would also change the formula used to distribute money from the fund to increase the amount allocated for water quality and conservation. However, the Governor was emphatic that she is not interested in raising taxes. She specifically noted that any sales tax would have to be more than offset by other tax reductions. She called for a decrease in income taxes. This plan builds on the historic income tax cuts of 2018; Her plan would cut individual income tax by 10% on average, and lower-income Iowans would see as much as a 25 percent cut. To fund mental health, she is proposing that the state reduce property tax levies, and provide funding directly through the State General Fund. In all, the Governor’s Invest in Iowa Act would fully fund mental health, water quality, and quality of life and include tax reform.
Shifting to education, The Governor said that building Iowa’s workforce starts at school and in the classroom and that the State is investing in PreK-12 education like never before. She highlighted the $90 million provided last year, including transportation equity. Today she announced that her budget for 2020 would call for $103 million in new money to invest in schools, teachers, and students.
On the topics of the economy and workforce, the Governor covered a lot of ground. She mentioned the fact that Iowa has thousands of open jobs. She touted the success of programs like the Last Dollar Scholarship, and the Employer Innovation Fund. Both programs help establish opportunities for Iowans looking for a way up while simultaneously addressing their workforce needs as well as the State’s. She proposed expanding both programs by $2.8 million, bringing the total investment to over $20 million.
Child care is a critical issue for families across the county. In her address today, the Governor acknowledged that it is a significant barrier to overcome for families looking to be a part of the workforce. She announced her support for expanding Early Childhood tax credits and address the childcare cliff. She also announced that she’s opening the Employee Investment Fund to employers and community organizations who have ideas to expand and create childcare options in their communities.
On Licensure Reform she claimed that if Iowa is going to thrive in the next decade, we must make sure that the government isn’t stifling ingenuity. She emphasized that current requirements hurt low-income people, those who need the opportunity the most. She hoped that some of these reforms would encourage more skilled workers to move the State.
The Governor then shifted to the topic of healthcare. In her address, she mentioned her focus on the overall wellness of all Iowans, every part of the State, all stages of life. She expressed her desire to see a constitutional amendment to protect unborn life. The Governor spoke at length on the topic but highlighted the issues facing the State in the areas of maternal health and mental health. She proposed a new fellowship program to increase the number of OB doctors and announced a telementoring system where OBs can consult with doctors across the State. Governor Reynolds said today that “Mental health is becoming one of the biggest challenges of our time.” She noted that two years ago, the government reformed the adult mental health system, and last year created the State’s first children’s mental health system. This year as part of the Invest in Iowa Act she announced today, she will create a sustainable funding source for the whole mental health system.
On the topics of crime and justice, Reynolds made a renewed call for amending the Constitution to restore felon voting rights. This proposal would require the public to vote on any proposed change. She noted the need to reduce recidivism and do more to provide second chances. She stressed that “Our prisons shouldn’t be one-stop in a circle that leads back to prison.”
The Governor stated that working to reduce recidivism and giving second chances would not only save state dollars on the cost of incarceration but also noting that doing so may help ease the growing workforce needs of the State. “We can help them become productive members of society, reduce recidivism, and make our communities a safer place.”
Today’s Condition of the state address was her third since becoming Governor. The speech was titled “Opportunity Lives Here.”