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Condition of the State 2011

posted on January 4, 2011

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In the waning days of Governor Chet Culver's administration, an opportunity to address Iowans for the final time as the state's chief executive. Iowa's 41st governor will give way to its 42nd later this week, but not before an attempt to claim a legislative and gubernatorial legacy. From a joint session of the Iowa General Assembly at the State Capitol in Des Moines, this is the 2011 Condition of the State Address.

Dean Borg: Hello, I'm Dean Borg. This is the House of Representatives chamber at the Iowa Statehouse where members of the House and Senate are now convened in joint session to hear Governor Chet Culver deliver his final speech as Iowa's Chief Executive. The Condition of the State message is an annual event, you might say it is draped in ceremonial protocol, but 2011 marks an unusual year for Iowa government. Not since the 1960s has a sitting Iowa governor lost a bid for re-election. And rather than laying out a vision for this newly convened legislature, because he hasn't been re-elected, we expect that Governor Culver will review what he considers to be the achievements of the past four years from flood management to fiscal stewardship.

Dean Borg: And Governor Culver will likely defend some of the programs that republicans may attempt to dismantle. We are awaiting the Governor's arrival here, running just a bit behind schedule, and we just witnessed something that is worth commenting on. Members of the state government, that includes the university presidents and the Iowa Executive Council, we expect in just a few minutes that we'll see Mary Culver, the governor's wife and their two children, escorted into the chamber. But included in that delegation traditionally is the Iowa Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Normally that is just tradition. They march in and people applaud. But this time, as the Iowa Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals was introduced, there was a sustained standing ovation for at least a minute and a half of applause as those justices took their seats, some of them smiling at that applause as they walked in.

Dean Borg: And that is indicative of the support of members of this joint general assembly here this morning and those were applauding, and it seemed to be that nearly everyone was. Of the state of the court right now, we're going to hear more about that tomorrow as Justice Mark Cady gives the State of the Judiciary, but as you may know, three members of the Supreme Court are no longer in office now because they were removed in the last election because the voters in an effort led by some very conservative members of Iowa and Bob Vander Plaats heading that campaign led a move to not retain the three justices who were up for retention and the court now, under what some might consider a state of siege, received a standing ovation, and as I said, that ninety seconds of sustained applause here this morning.

Dean Borg: I don't know if you'll hear Governor Culver refer to that this morning but you're going to see. What you're going to be seeing now is some of the things that normally take place before we take the air. And this is Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge now being escorted in.

Chair recognizes Sergeant at Arms.

Mr. President, the Governor has arrived in the House chamber and he is going to bring his family down.

Dean Borg: This is Governor Chet Culver, this is breaking with tradition. Normally the Governor's family is escorted in before the Governor arrives at the chamber. This time he is walking in with his wife Mary and their two children, John and Claire Culver.

Dean Borg: The Governor embracing and kissing the members of his family. And now he'll walk to the podium. Embracing Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge as he walks toward the rotunda. That is the General Assembly on their feet, Iowa Executive Council, applauding. The Governor now on the rostrum and he'll be introduced by the President of the Senate, Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg. This will be Senator Kibbie that you hear next.

Senator Jack Kibbie: I want to thank the committee for performing their duties. It is my pleasure to introduce our Governor who has faced four years of economic stress, his work to pay for teachers, preschool for children, expanded healthcare access, development of alternative energy are major accomplishments. He leaves us with resources that will make our job this session easier than many other states. Governor, I want to personally thank you for your service. It is my pleasure to introduce current Governor Chet Culver for the Condition of the State message to the 2011 session of the 84th General Assembly. It's all yours, Governor.

Governor Chet Culver: Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you folks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please have a seat. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause)

Members of the General Assembly, President Kibbie, Speaker Paulsen, Leaders Gronstal, Upmeyer, McCarthy and McKinley, thank you for the opportunity to address this joint session of the legislature. To my fellow statewide elected officials, members of the Iowa Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, thank you for being here this morning. I also want to welcome Congressman Loebsack and Congressman Braley who are with us. (Applause)

I want to start by congratulating the newly elected legislators and statewide elected officials including Governor-elect Branstad and Lieutenant Governor-elect Reynolds on your victory. I wish you God's speed and good luck in the future. To the members of the Board of Regents, including President Miles, Regent Campbell and our university Presidents Mason, Geoffroy and Allen, I want to say it has been a pleasure to work with you. It is fair to say that no state in the nation enjoys the leadership and recognition that our three outstanding public universities do. (Applause)

The same is true for our leadership at our community colleges and private colleges. As the Commander in Chief of the Iowa National Guard, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of Adjutant General Tim Orr and thank the men and women who wear the uniform. (Applause)

As you know, we are now in the midst of the largest single overseas deployment of Guard troops since World War II. 3100 of our brave fighting men and women are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Sadly, during the last decade 77 Iowans have given the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds more have been injured. So, we honor their sacrifice today and I ask you to always keep our military families in your thoughts and your prayers. (Applause)

I am often inspired by the words of one of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy, who said, and I quote, "The greatest tribute is not to udder words, but to live by them." That is why I'm so proud that last year Iowa became the first state in America to pass the top ten recommendations from the U.S. Department of Defense to support our troops, their families and our veterans. (Applause)

One of the highlights of my term was having the opportunity to visit and spend time with our troops in Iraq, Kosovo and at Camp Ripley in Minnesota during pre-deployment training. Finally, what a tremendous honor it was for me to formally recognize Iowa's own Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta after he was awarded the Medal of Honor. (Applause)

So, we have kept our promise to our brave men and women in uniform and our state is stronger for it. I stand before you for the last time entrusted by the Constitution, with the duty of updating you about the condition of our state. As you can imagine, I do so today with a broad range of emotions. First of all, I am confident that our administration has left the state in a better position than we found it. In fact, last fall Iowa was acknowledged in a national publication as the third best run state in the nation. (Applause)

So, I'm happy to report the condition of our state is strong today and we are well positioned for growth, greatness and prosperity tomorrow. (Applause)

This is especially true when it comes to renewable energy, our children, new 21st century jobs and disaster recovery. Today, Iowa is number one in the nation in renewable energy. We now generate twenty percent of our power from renewable sources up from five percent just four years ago. (Applause)

And with the help of our private sector partners including MidAmerican and Alliant Energy, in the past four years we have built forty wind farms. We are one of only two states manufacturing wind towers, turbines and blades, the three component parts of a windmill and more than 200 small businesses in twenty-six Iowa counties are now employing thousands of people in the wind energy supply chain. (Applause)

Today we have more than 4,700 windmills operating across the state, enough to power more than one million homes and exciting new transmission plans are now in place to build out our electric grid. This will allow Iowa one day to sell excess power to cities like Chicago and Milwaukee. So, we have accomplished our goal of becoming the renewable energy capitol of the United States. (Applause)

One of the tools we have used to accomplish this goal is the Iowa Power Fund. It has allowed Iowa to become the Silicon Prairie of the Midwest. To date we have invested more than a quarter of a billion dollars in public and private funds in forty cutting-edge second and third generation renewable energy development projects. These breakthrough technologies and solutions will help Iowa secure its renewable energy future. So, to Chairman Fred Hubbell and the Iowa Power Fund Board members and to Roya Stanley, Director of the Office of Energy Independence, I salute you and thank you for your visionary work. (Applause)

We have also helped increase production of biofuels statewide by supporting and expanding tax credits for biodiesel, ethanol and E-85 at the federal and state level. And this year, as the Chairman of the National Biofuels Coalition, we successfully pushed for an E-15 waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency. This will allow Iowa to produce millions more gallons of ethanol annually and keep us on a pathway towards energy independence. (Applause)

And when it comes to investing in Iowa's children we have also made great progress. Today we are number one in the nation in children's health insurance. No state has done more to cover kids in the last four years. We have added 58,000 kids to the rolls and as a result ninety-nine percent of Iowa's children are now getting basic healthcare services. (Applause)

In addition, we are leading the nation in expanding access to preschool. During the last three years alone, 23,000 additional children have been enrolled in early childhood education programs. (Applause)

As a result, ninety-percent of four-year-olds now have the opportunity to attend a quality preschool program, up from just five percent a few years ago. We have also had a clear and consistent focus on creating new 21st century green collar jobs and information technology jobs. Our state is now home to more than 8,000 green collar jobs and eight new wind energy companies are now operating in Iowa. In addition, three international information technology companies, Google, Microsoft and IBM have created nearly 2,000 new IT jobs in the last three years. (Applause)

And thanks to the efforts of our economic development team and its board of directors we have now partnered successfully with 280 businesses who have agreed to create or retain a total of 28,000 good-paying Iowa jobs. In addition, our workforce development efforts have allowed for real progress in coordinating the needs of our employers with the skills of our workers. Community college enrollment is at an all-time high and our successful community college job training and worker re-training programs have allowed us to help more than 100,000 Iowans find a job. (Applause)

So, our job creation and workforce development efforts are now paying big dividends. In fact, our unemployment rate is now at 6.6% or 33% below the national average and the seventh lowest in the nation. (Applause)

We have also now regained more than a third of the jobs we lost during the recession and just last week it was reported that we are now on track to reach our pre-recession employment levels by the third quarter of 2012. (Applause)

So, our efforts have allowed Iowa to lead the country out of the recession. Thirteen of our nineteen largest companies in Iowa just reported double digit stock gains for 2010 and we are on the only state in the nation to post fourteen consecutive months of sustained economic growth. (Applause)

So, these positive signs coupled with our $950 million surplus clearly show the strength of Iowa's economy. You know, the last four years have been challenging times for all of us. Together we have faced unprecedented natural disasters, we have seen the destruction of tornados and floods that killed and injured so many in communities across Iowa in 2008 and again in 2010. The images from places like Cedar Rapids, New Hartford, Palo, Coralville, Waterloo, Parkersburg, Cedar Falls and Oakville told the story of the damage and devastation better than any words could ever. But I have never been more proud of Iowa. We showed the best of Iowa in the worst of times. Despite the tough times, we have come together to build the foundation for a better, stronger and more resilient state, one that is now well on its way to a full and complete recovery. (Applause)

We stood together shoulder to shoulder, united as one, committed to rebuilding our state from the worst natural disaster ever. And together we have helped ease the pain for those who have lost so much. To date, we have secured more than $5 billion dollars in state and federal funds for recovery, rebuilding and flood mitigation. I want to thank our congressional delegation, Senators Harkin and Grassley and our congressional members in the House for their efforts to help us secure $4.3 billion in federal funds. (Applause)

We have now secured a billion dollars of funding for Linn County alone. And I would like to thank retired Lieutenant General Ron Dardis and the entire Rebuild Iowa Office and staff for their tireless efforts working on flood recovery. (Applause)

As a result of our efforts we are rebuilding Iowa in a stronger, safer and more sustainable way. Together, with the help of legislators, from flood impacted communities we created the Iowa Jobs and Infrastructure Initiative or I-jobs. This has allowed us to provide funds totaling $330 million for nearly one hundred separate flood recovery projects in thirty-seven flood affected counties. These projects include new fire stations in Elkader and Charles City, a new public library and Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, replacing ten buildings at the University of Iowa including Hancher Auditorium and a new flood wall that will now protect two hundred small businesses along the Coralville strip. So, we have accomplished a great deal together and we have moved our state forward the last four years despite governing through some very challenging times. I am very proud of our record and I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the 40th Governor of Iowa. And I would like to thank the people of Iowa for giving me this enormous privilege. (Applause)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Looking back, one of the things I am most proud of is that we kept the promises we made to Iowans. We did what we said we were going to do. We raised the minimum wage, increased teacher pay, made our public places smoke free, lifted the ban on stem cell research ... (Applause) ... invested $100 million to improve water quality, protected civil rights at home, in the workplace and for students in schools. We balanced the budget four years in a row and we earned a AAA bond rating, the highest possible and only a handful of states can enjoy. In addition, we tackled racial disparity in sentencing and youth detention. We appointed a record number of women and minorities to boards and commissions. We passed the first-in-the-nation Minority Impact Law and we stood tall to protect the Constitutional rights for all Iowans regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. (Applause)

Thank you. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you, folks, thank you. Finally, we reduced state spending, reformed and reorganized government, streamlined and consolidated operations, offered early retirement to 2200 state employees, reduced employee healthcare costs by $20 million, implemented strategic purchasing, reduced our vehicle fleet and eliminated redundant e-mail and information technology services. (Applause)

All of these important reform measures have helped us create a record $950 million surplus, save us more than $300 million annually and put us closer to the smaller, smarter and more efficient government the taxpayers of Iowa deserve. (Applause)

The reason our record of accomplishment was possible and the condition of our state is strong is because I had the privilege of working each day with extraordinary Iowans and the list of people I want to thank is long. First and foremost, I want to thank my wife, Mary, and my entire family including my parents, siblings and relatives for their constant and unwavering love and support. Thank you, dear. (Applause)

I am very proud of the fact that Mary has been one of our state's leading advocates for at-risk women and children. In fact, she was recently recognized as the 2010 Advocate of the Year by Children and Family Services of Iowa. So, Mary has been a great First Lady and an incredible mother to our two children. We are both very proud of John and Claire and I would ask all of you to welcome the Culver family to the chamber now. (Applause)

I also want to extend a huge thank you to Iowa's Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge. Patty has been the best partner a governor could ever have. She served as an important advisor on matters big and small and she has been an excellent oversight executive for our state's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agencies. The state of Iowa is a better place because of Patty Judge's more than twenty years of public service as a state senator from Albia, the first woman elected Secretary of Agriculture and Lieutenant Governor. Please join me in thanking Lieutenant Governor Judge. Thank you, Patty. (Applause)

Additionally, I want to thank my Chief of Staff Jim Larew, Deputy Chief of Staff Joni Klaassen and the directors of our state's thirty-eight departments and agencies. These individuals showed dedication to our cause and worked hard every day to move this state forward. I want to say thank you to each of you for your outstanding public service. Your expertise, advice and input has been invaluable. Thank you. (Applause)

I have also been blessed each day with the opportunity to work with a great team of individuals in the Governor's and Lieutenant Governor's office, along with thousands of exceptionally talented state employees across Iowa. They include state troopers who put their lives on the line every day to protect us, snowplow drivers who are working as we're here this morning to clear our highways after this dangerous winter storm, corrections officers who protect our communities from our most dangerous criminals, nurses at the University of Iowa Hospitals who take care of us and our loved ones, the cafeteria staff who will serve many of us lunch today and the custodians who come in every night to keep this Capitol Building one of the most beautiful in the nation. (Applause)

So, to every member of our state government team, I want to thank you for your professionalism. You make certain state government provides the kind of services that Iowans expect. Finally, to all members of the General Assembly and leadership on both sides of the aisle. I would like to say thanks to each of your for being important partners in our efforts to make Iowa an even better place. So, the condition of our state is strong. We have made the tough decisions and we have kept our promises to the people of Iowa. However, despite our progress, our work as a state is never done. For example, this week, the Department of Management is releasing our required bi-annual report detailing progress on our government reform and reorganization initiative. This report identifies even more steps that can be taken such as improved debt collection, further information technology consolidation and targeted strategic purchasing opportunities. These steps will help save an additional $84 million this fiscal year. So, I encourage you to continue these efforts and implement the report's recommendations. We have also provided the legislature and the new administration with a detailed summary addressing the historic egg recall last summer. This includes five proposed changes in Iowa law that will help improve food safety and employee training standards in the wake of the salmonella outbreak last summer. These are only two examples of ways in which your legislative action will be necessary. But I have no doubt that you will meet these challenges and many others head on. So, my fellow Iowans, we have been through a great deal together, from the worst natural disaster in our state's history to the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, from the H1N1 flu pandemic and the largest troop deployment since World War II. I think it is fair to say that there has never been a dull moment. (Applause)

I also understand very well that these difficult times have taken their toll on the people of Iowa. But time and time again, together we have successfully overcome these challenges and I believe we are a better state and a better people for it. Our resilience is tied directly to our inherent optimism, a belief that things will get better and that our best days are still ahead of us. We are also a people of strong faith, strong character and we believe in our Iowa values of hard work, helping a neighbor in need, determination and common sense. We now stand at a critically important time for Iowa. Our state's direction and destination are now up to each and every one of us. So, I want to encourage you in the clearest possible terms to build on our strengths, especially in the area of renewable energy, investing in our children, creating the jobs of the future and completing disaster recovery efforts. The vision of Iowa we should all stand for and share is not a partisan vision, it is not a political vision, nor a self-serving vision. It is an Iowa vision, one that will help move the people of this state forward, one that will always put the people of Iowa first, embrace our dreams, unlock our potential and improve our quality of life. May God bless you and may God bless the people of the great state of Iowa. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you folks, thank you, thanks guys. Thank you all.

President Jack Kibbie: Will the committee please come forward and escort Governor Culver from the House chamber.

Dean Borg: Governor Culver now in the area in front of the rostrum, called the well, shaking hands with members of the Iowa Executive Council. He shook hands as he passed members of the Supreme Court, each of them individually and several of the Court of Appeals, embraced his children and Mary Culver as he passed them. Now he is shaking hands along the aisle as he leaves this chamber after having delivered his final Condition of the State Address to this joint convention of the Iowa General Assembly. I notice that Governor Culver wiped that characteristic perspiration from his brow as he finished and the standing ovation was being given to him but I also noticed that he wiped a tear from his eye, very emotionally moved by the standing ovation and the applause that he is getting here.

Dean Borg: The other thing that I noticed, he said, he looked back where Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal was sitting beside the House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and he looked back at Mike Gronstal and said, thanks Mike. You may have missed that in the audio because it wasn't quite distinctive over all of the applause but he waved at Mike Gronstal and said, thanks Mike because Mike Gronstal has been very instrumental in moving the Governor's agenda through this Iowa legislative session during the four years of the Culver administration, particularly the past two years.

Dean Borg: The Governor said he is leaving the state in a better position than when he took office. We can assume he is speaking of furthering the state and not accessing the condition when he took over from fellow democrat Tom Vilsack. But perhaps the one condition that wasn't explicitly mentioned in the speech but was very visually apparent is that the state is deeply divided and that is over the issue of same-sex marriage. I mentioned earlier the standing sustained ovation, ninety seconds at least standing ovation for the Iowa Supreme Court, the four remaining members of the Iowa Supreme Court as they came in to hear this speech today and then during Governor Culver's address another standing ovation but that a split ovation as he mentioned, referring in his speech too that decision of the Iowa Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. And he said, we stood tall to protect the constitutional rights of all Iowans regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation and at that time it was a divided ovation, the democrats standing and applauding and the republicans not.

Dean Borg: I'm going to turn now to Linda Upmeyer of Garner who is the new republican majority leader in the Iowa House of Representatives. Representative Upmeyer, what was your assessment of the speech today?

Representative Linda Upmeyer: Well, first of all, I'd like to certainly wish Governor Culver well and thank him for his service to our state. I absolutely believe that Governor Culver cares very much about this state and has done what he thought was best. But under Governor Culver's leadership we've gotten the state into a rather bad habit of spending one-time dollars for ongoing expenses, we've seen $500 million of property tax increases, we have a $600 to $700 million gap in the budget as we move into preparing the 2012 budget and additionally we've seen the four largest budgets in the history of the state. So, as my caucus gets to work this year and we certainly hope to work with everyone but as we start our work we're going to be focusing on realigning the spending and the revenue a little more closely. And, in fact, we're going to work hard to spend less, save more and get folks back to work. As the Governor talked a bit about jobs, on January 1st of 2007 our unemployment rate was 6.6%. In November of this year it is 6.6% so that is a three percent increase.

Dean Borg: So, what you are saying is it was a bit rosier Condition of the State than you assess the condition to be?

Representative Linda Upmeyer: That is perhaps true. I think it's important for Iowans to understand realistically where we are and understand that we are committed to moving toward those goals of realigning the spending and the revenues and, of course, spending less, saving more.

Dean Borg: What could have made it a stronger speech?

Representative Linda Upmeyer: Well, I'm not sure what he might have done to make it stronger. I think he laid it out the way he saw it.

Dean Borg: Were you amazed by the standing, sustained ovation for members of the Iowa Supreme Court, particularly because as majority leader you are going to be asked to guide some legislation here that would impeach the remaining four justices on that court? Were you surprised by the ovation?

Representative Linda Upmeyer: Well, not exactly. I looked around to see who was in the Capitol this morning, who was in the galleries so I think the people that were here today to hear Governor Culver were perhaps more aligned with that philosophy. So, based on that I wasn't surprised at it. I'm always a little surprised when there is hooting and hollering and whistling because of the decorum in the House.

Dean Borg: Thank you, Representative Upmeyer. Thanks so much. Well, that concludes the 2011 Condition of the State Address. You can watch Governor Culver's final address online at our Web site, iptv.org and stay with Iowa Public Television for more political programming as the week rolls on. In fact, tomorrow morning, Wednesday at 10:00 the Iowa Supreme Court's Chief Justice Mark Cady delivers the State of the Judiciary message. We're carrying that live at 10:00 on our World .3 channel, rebroadcast at 9:30 Wednesday night on Iowa Public Television statewide. And then moving to Friday, Iowa's new Governor Terry Branstad taking the oath of office at 9:00 in the morning. Again, you'll see it as it happens on our World .3 channel, rebroadcast at 8:30 Friday night on statewide Iowa Public Television's main channel.

Dean Borg: It is one of our busiest weeks of the year. We hope that you'll be watching. That brings us to Iowa Press on Friday. We'll be questioning Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, that follows Justice Cady's message to the Iowa General Assembly this week and you'll see Justice Cady at the usual Iowa Press times, 7:30 Friday night and 11:30 Sunday morning. From the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines, I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.


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