Branstad visits Sibley
SIBLEY, Iowa -- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds touted legislative successes and heard from state legislators and constituents Wednesday afternoon during a "Jobs for Iowa" tour at the Sibley Public Library.
Branstad and Reynolds, who also visited Rock Rapids, Iowa, earlier in the day, have been traveling statewide in recent days, and were introduced in Sibley by State Rep. Dave Johnson, R-Ocheyedan. Branstad, also a Republican, served as Iowa's governor for 16 years, then won a new four-year term in 2010.
About 25 people attended the nearly 50-minute meeting, during which Branstad and Reynolds spoke as well as took questions. Reynolds, a former state senator from Osceola, addressed the gathering first following Johnson's initial remarks and opened by praising the revamping of the state's Department of Economic Development and the leadership of its director, Debi Durham.
Reynolds also hailed the passage of a biennial budget -- "that had not been done since the '80s," she noted -- and added that the state put an end to the practice of using one-time money for ongoing state programs.
"We were given 89 programs that had been funded with one-time money ... and rolled that into the general fund," Reynolds said. "We also passed a balanced budget without raising taxes, and I think that's something we're really proud of."
Reynolds explained that she heard repeatedly from people in the business sector during the course of the gubernatorial campaign that Iowa needed to be friendlier to economic development -- and that she and Branstad heard those concerns and had been receptive to them.
"We sent a clear message that we meant what we said, and we're providing that stability," she said. "We have a responsibility to create an environment that's conducive to job growth and let businesses and entrepreneurs do what they do best."
Branstad began by referencing the challenge of balancing the budget without using one-time money, adding that his administration did that while creating a five-year state budget projection. He also spoke of the burden of numerous state and federal regulations that he said impede business growth,
"One of the most onerous (regulations) was the RICE rule," said Branstad, who in April signed an executive officer that rescinded the rule. Enacted by the Environmental Protection Commission, it forced backup diesel generators to be retrofitted with expensive new parts, though the engines are rarely used, he stated.
Adding that other regulations are being examined, Branstad said, "Whether it's businesses, communities or agriculture, it's the regulatory environment that's critical."
Branstad also said his administration succeeded in the elimination of state income taxes for people deployed in the military. One goal he didn't accomplish, he indicated, was reduction of commercial property taxes, and he also hopes for new limits on the way property taxes are calculated.
The governor mentioned a businessman who told him earlier Wednesday that he pays half in taxes for property in Sioux Falls, S.D., than he does in Rock Rapids.
Biosciences represent a great opportunity for growth, Branstad continued, but the state's young people need to get the kind of math and science education that goes along with filling jobs in that industry.
In taking questions, Rep. Johnson reiterated the importance of easing regulations that he said can potentially cause undue hardships on rural communities.
"There has been too much of a 'gotcha' attitude," Branstad responded. "We want more of a collaborative attitude with the communities. It has to be cost-effective ..."
"And reasonable," Reynolds chimed in.
"And a reasonable approach," finished Branstad, who noted that several new state department heads are working hard to "change the culture" in Des Moines.
In response to an attendee who spoke of the need for improved transportation infrastructure and an increase in the gas tax, the governor noted he had appointed a citizens' commission currently in the process of hosting public meetings across the state. He said transportation revenues should be collected on a "user fee basis, and the people that use our transportation system that don't live in Iowa need to pay their share, too."
Branstad and Reynolds also heard from a wind energy proponent who wanted to make sure Iowa is maximizing opportunities in that sector. Branstad noted his involvement in the national Governors' Wind Energy Coalition and said he realized the need for more transmission lines as well as attracting wind energy-related manufacturers to the state.