Iowa Public Television


Condition of the State 2014

posted on January 10, 2014

Borg: This is the House of Representatives' chamber at the Iowa Statehouse.  Hello, I'm Dean Borg.  The Senate President Pam Jochum has just introduced Governor Branstad and we're going to switch right to the lectern for Governor Branstad's Condition of the State Address.


Governor Branstad: Thank you very much.  Madam Lieutenant Governor, Madam President, Mr. Speaker, Leaders, justices, judges, legislators, elected officials, distinguished guests, family, friends and fellow Iowans, good morning.  I offer a special welcome this morning to new Representatives Brian Meyer and Stan Gustafson and new Senator Julian Garrett.  I look forward to working with you and all members of this General Assembly.

I stand here today honored to be serving as your Governor, humbled by the opportunity and eager to meet the challenges we face.  I'm pleased to report on the condition of our state.

Over the past year we have come together as families, communities and Iowans, putting our differences aside and moving Iowa forward.  Because of our hard work last legislative session, Iowa's economy, educational system and health are moving forward.  Iowans have proved time and time again when working with one another rather than against one another we can overcome any challenge. 

For example, the International Olympic Committee last year took action to eliminate wrestling from the Olympics.  More than 25,000 people joined us through an online petition to keep Olympic wrestling.  The entire Iowa congressional delegation joined us and more than 30 other governors came together joining me in a letter to the IOC to keep wrestling.  And together we kept wrestling in the Olympics and the Olympics dreams of Iowa wrestlers alive.


My friends, Iowa faces another challenge where we can again come together and rally around what is best for our state.  The EPA has proposed reducing the level of biofuels outlined in the Renewable Fuel Standard.  This rule -- if this rule is adopted it would be devastating, it would be a devastating setback to the agriculture sector of Iowa's economy.  The proposed rule comes at a time when our state continues to implement new pioneering policies encouraging growth and innovation in the renewable energy sector.  In a partnership with Iowa State University, we launched the fueling our future program last October, which will bring Iowa to the forefront in the use of E30 fuel.

This new program is a reflection of the importance of further advancing the renewable fuels industry and how the RFS is helping create important Iowa jobs.  The RFS has led to a cleaner environment, opened the markets for Iowa corn and soybeans and reduced our nation's dependency on foreign oil.  Thousands of Americans are coming together now in support of the RFS.  We will be holding a public hearing later this month to give Iowans the opportunity to voice their concern about the EPA's proposal.  Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I are pleased that the entire Iowa congressional delegation and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey have agreed to co-host this important forum.  Today, I call on the General Assembly, as one of your first orders of business, in a bipartisan fashion, to pass a resolution in support of maintaining a robust Renewable Fuels Standard.


Whether it is our sense of community that saved wrestling or collaboration in support of agriculture and renewable fuels, Iowans come together.  It is this sense of community and collaboration that defines us as Iowans.  And it should again shape our approach to governing this year.

As we have demonstrated before, we should again attack our problems with the same common sense and seriousness as Iowans across the state.  Working hard, working together and working to make things better than we found them.  To me, this is the Iowa dream, the dream of opportunity and prosperity which can become a reality for every Iowan that is willing to work for it.  The seeds of that dream have been planted with our work over the past three years.  But now we must cultivate that dream of opportunity -- of a great job and a great place to raise a family -- so that it can grow and flourish. 

The simple truth is that we Iowans are a people of faith, of tenacity, who each year plant the seeds of our livelihood with the devout belief that with hard work and the grace of God we will reap a bountiful harvest.  Today it is my duty and honor to report to you on the condition of our state.  And I am here to tell you, with great pride, Iowa is working.


With more Iowans going to work each and every day, the current unemployment rate in Iowa now stands at 4.4 percent.  Iowa is working, our citizens are working towards the Iowa dream.  With personal incomes growing, Iowa is working.  With schools and students improving their performance and their standing compared to other states around the nation, Iowa is working.  The federal government has been paralyzed by partisanship leading to cliffs, ceilings, sequesters and shutdown.  Iowa leaders have done the opposite.  We came together to work on behalf of Iowans.  We put aside political differences to achieve common sense compromise in cutting taxes, improving education and modernizing our health care in the state.  All evidence that Iowa is working.

Three years ago, like many other states, Iowa faced serious budget challenges.  The path to prosperity was grim.  Yet the charge to us was clear -- restore predictability and stability to the state and get our fiscal house in order.  Working together we have done just that.


We passed two biennial budgets that restored predictability to the state budget.  These are budgets that hard-working Iowa taxpayers can depend on, budgets that work for Iowans by prioritizing education, economic development and job training.  Today, Iowa's rainy day fund and economic emergency funds are full.  And we're fortunate to have a healthy budget surplus.  Iowa is working.

We have taken a similar common sense approach to health care in our state by working to improve the health of Iowans, bringing more doctors to Iowa and providing better care for low income Iowans.  Since announcing the Healthiest State Initiative, Iowa has improved from 19th to 9th in well-being.  During this address last year, students from Des Moines University joined us in seeking increased support for a public-private partnership that would encourage more doctors to move to rural Iowa.  Today, the private sector rural communities in the state are coming together to ensure more doctors will be serving underserved communities.  These students will benefit from this partnership and our state will benefit from their commitment.  As doctors, they'll work to improve the health of our citizens and as valuable members of rural Iowa, their work will help bring jobs to our communities.  Thank you DMU students for joining us again this year.  Thank you very much.  We're proud to have you here.


I can tell you, this is a great group of students.  I had the honor of working with them for six years.

The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is now in place.  Thousands of Iowans are now receiving more than just access, they are getting health care designed to get them healthier.  The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is using health risk assessments and physicals to empower Iowans to take ownership of their own health.  On top of that, more Iowans are receiving private insurance than ever before.  Iowans living longer, healthier lives will improve the health of our state, our economy and our families. 

We may not have always agreed on the path to these policies, but we can all resoundingly agree on this -- our plan was designed by Iowans, not out of touch bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and it's going to make Iowans healthier.  Iowa is working.



Three years ago, 100,000 Iowans were out of work.  Jobs were hard to come by.  And investments in our state were inadequate.  We focused on economic development efforts by changing our approach.  Together we created the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress.  This public-private partnership is reaping dividends for our economy with more investments and more jobs for Iowans.  In the past three years, Iowa has seen $7.5 billion in new capital investments and I'm pleased to report that since taking office, over 130,000 new jobs have been created in this state.


Perhaps the best example of our state's turnaround in our policies working for middle-class families is seen in Lee County, which had the highest unemployment in the state when I took office in 2011.  Iowans in Lee County are getting back to work thanks in part to the largest on-shore purchase of wind turbines in history and a multi-billion dollar, world class fertilizer plant bringing much needed jobs and investments to the area.  Thanks to these projects, unemployment in Lee County has dropped by 40% and many southeast Iowans are back to work.


To help Iowans keep more of their hard-earned money and to help employers invest and grow in Iowa, you passed and I signed into law the largest property tax cut in Iowa history. 


This historic measure will provide more than 4.4 billion dollars in tax relief, slashing taxes for middle class families and encouraging businesses to grow.  Middle class families are working hard every day to achieve their version of the Iowa dream and providing this much needed tax relief will help them to achieve it.  Improving education in our state is imperative to improving our job outlook, our economic outlook and our outlook for the Iowa dream itself.  Together we have taken steps to help keep our best teachers in the classrooms, increase school choice and better equip our students for college and the workforce.

We have begun to reform Iowa's education system and we can expect Iowa schools to pull away from the middle of the pack and reclaim preeminence in student achievement as measured against the rest of the United States.


The demands of both college and the workforce have changed.  In the 21st century the skills needed to succeed and compete in the globally competitive economy include science, technology, engineering and math.  Through the STEM advisory council led by Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, about 60,000 additional students are expected to have access to innovative STEM focused opportunities this school year.  Today, students across Iowa are learning to build robots and solve complex math problems, preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow.  In the gallery are students from Des Moines East High School and Greenwood Elementary School.  Please join me in welcoming them to their Capitol.


We have worked together to invest in students, teachers and schools.  We have worked together an invested in the health and well-being of our state.  We have worked together and invested in middle class families, Main Street businesses and our communities.  I'm proud of what we have been able to do to accomplish working together.  The results of our work will have a positive impact on the lives of many Iowans.  However, there is still much more work to be done.  Together let's make this another successful and productive session.


This year, let's continue to work to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of our citizens as they seek the Iowa dream.  Skyrocketing college costs have made reaching the Iowa dream unattainable for too many.  Those that do pursue higher education often are strapped with massive amounts of student debt that they spend decades to pay off.  We have taken steps to ease this burden.  Last year we provided historic financial support for our community colleges.  We increased the Iowa Tuition Grant for those who attend private colleges.  And we provided targeted support for high achievers entering the teaching profession and providing rural health care.  And last year, the budget that you passed and I signed, provided the Regents universities with the necessary resources to freeze tuition for the first time in 30 years.


This year, my budget proposes another investment in key tuition assistance programs so we can continue the fight against escalating student debt.  This year, I'm submitting a budget to once again free tuition for Iowa students at the Regents institutions.


We need to reinforce with our students that if they borrow, they need to borrow only enough to pay the bills.  The University of Northern Iowa is requiring all students receiving loans to participate in financial literacy programs.  And it is working.  Last year, student debt at the University of Northern Iowa decreased by 8%.  Today, I'm calling on members of the Iowa legislature to join me in working to reduce the costs to make college more affordable and reduce the amount of debt incurred by Iowa students and their families. 

What if more students could earn while they learn?  Apprenticeships now allow just that opportunity be providing focused and streamlined training.  One of the positive outgrowths of our historic capital investments made throughout the state is an increased demand for job.  Apprenticeship programs allow us to quickly and effectively train workers to meet this demand.  The budget I propose to you today triples support for apprenticeship programs.  These programs strengthen our middle class, our businesses and our economy.  Today, we can further build the pipeline of skilled workers.  Together we can ensure our workers have the skills they need to fill the jobs that they want.


But we must to do more if Iowa is going to remain a national and global competitor.  That means we need to be connected.  Iowans are now interacting differently, interacting differently with businesses, with their government and with each other.  Through technology we can connect our dreams to reality.  Technology will improve educational instruction and make new resources available for our students.  It can connect businesses to new customers in new markets.  It can connect you with your, the job of your dreams.  Technology connects the entrepreneur without a dime to the billion dollar idea in her dreams.

We have had great success in Iowa in the tech sector.  We're now home to data centers with household names like Google, Microsoft and Facebook.  We have thriving tech startup communities in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and elsewhere, all with entrepreneurs looking to create the next Dwolla, Pinterest or WebFilings. 

Cedar Falls has become a Gigabit City and three other Iowa communities have distinguished themselves as Connected Communities.  Yet as a state, we can do better.  In September I announced our initiative to connect every Iowan, with the goal of making Iowa the most connected state in the Midwest.  I charge the STEM Advisory Council's Broadband Committee with developing recommendations for our consideration.  Today, I propose the Connect Every Iowan Act with incentives to encourage access, adoption and use of broadband technology by business and individuals.  My plan includes programs that will train workers for 21st century careers in information and communications technology.  My plan also calls for moving to ICN 2.0, repurposing the Iowa Communications Network so that it can partner with the private sector to provide connectivity in underserved areas of our state.

Together we can use broadband technology to grow the Iowa dream throughout our state, especially in rural areas.  As our connection speeds increase, so does the pace of economic progress, so does the ability to grow jobs and so does the ability to turn the Iowa dream into a reality.


To keep the Iowa dream alive, we must keep Iowa and especially rural Iowa vibrant and working.  As I visit communities all throughout our state during my annual 99 county tour, this vibrancy is seen, felt and heard.  From the enjoyment experienced at Watermelon Day in Stanhope, the Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson and the Swamp-Fox Festival in Marion to the early morning farmer's markets and the Rotary Clubs at noon, day-to-day life reflects our shared Iowa values.  Yet some of the schools and public buildings which used to be a source of pride are now empty shells dotting the landscapes of our communities. Once filled with the hustle and bustle of school children and their teachers, these are more than just abandoned buildings.  They are part of our childhood.  They are part of us.  Instead of letting these treasures stand there empty, let's turn them into economic centers of our communities.  Let's once again make them part of our daily lives. 

We will submit legislation to provide tax incentives to repurpose abandoned schools and public buildings.  Let's turn what used to be our centers of education into centers of commerce.  Let's repurpose the crumbling structures with renewed investment and reinforce the foundation with new jobs.


As we repurpose our schools of yesterday, let's also refocus on our students of today.  Sadly, for some children in Iowa, the bully they face every day makes every day feel more like a nightmare.  As they consider whether they can continue to take the abuse from the bully, they don't know where to turn.  Even if they turn to school officials, our laws have tied their hands.  Imagine being that child.  Imagine being unable to escape as a bully relentlessly pursues them online in a forum accessible 24/7.  Imagine how bleak it must be.  Imagine how lonely it must feel. 

This session, we can let our children know that they are not alone.  I call on both houses and both parties to support the Bully Free Iowa Act of 2014.  We can take action to empower our students and their parents.  We can untie the hands of schools to allow them to better address cyberbullying.  As we take action to protect our children from bullies let us also commit to honoring and better serving the men and women that protect our liberties and our rights every day.  This session, the centerpiece of my agenda is Home Base Iowa.  It is a bipartisan jobs plan focusing on recruiting service members to Iowa and matching them with good, high paying careers.

Here today in the gallery we are joined by members of the Iowa National Guard and veterans organizations.  They have served our country and our state with dignity and honor.  Please join me in thanking them for their service.


Theodore Roosevelt once said, "A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards."  In November I announced the Home Base Iowa initiative to recruit veterans to Iowa because I believe Iowa can offer our nation's veterans something greater than a square deal.  We can offer them a better opportunity to live the Iowa dream.  We can give them the best life America has to offer. 

Joining me in this endeavor are two men who have served their country, two men who share my uncompromising passion for honoring veterans.  Please join me in recognizing co-chairs of Home Base Iowa, Congressman Leonard Boswell and Bob Myers, CEO of Casey's General Stores.  Thank you both for your continued service.


We want our veterans to know that in Iowa if you dream it, you can achieve it.  In Iowa, you can find a home that you can afford.  In Iowa, you can find a good paying job.  In Iowa, you can send your kids to a good school and they can play in a safe neighborhood.  And in Iowa, we honor our veterans not only with words and ceremonies but with action.  Today I call on the legislature to pass the Home Base Iowa Act.  Join me in telling veterans that we will no longer tax their military pensions.


Let's increase support for the Military Homeowners Assistance program that provides up to $5,000 in down payment or closing cost assistance.  Let's give veterans credit for their military training and experience as they pursue occupational licensure in our state.  And let's make Iowa the destination for veterans to continue their education.  Already the University of Iowa has been named the 6th best university for veterans by U.S. News and World Report.  But we can do even better.

I will be asking the State Board of Education to join the Regents institutions by passing rules giving veterans, their spouses and dependents automatic in-state tuition at our communities colleges.  I will also be convening stakeholders --


I will also be convening stakeholders from the Regents, community colleges and private colleges to develop consistent policies to provide veterans academic credit for their military training and experience.  Our veterans have risked their lives defending our freedom.  To show our gratitude, let's make Iowa the leader in respect, support and opportunity for veterans.


Ladies and gentlemen, Iowa is working.  Our state is open for new ideas, open for honest dialogue and open for more business.  Iowa is working.  Our efforts are making a difference in the lives of everyday families as they pursue their Iowa dreams.  Our schools are getting better, our communities are coming together and our government is working.  But that success tells me that we have an even greater opportunity, an opportunity to build upon what is great about our state and our people so that we are competitive now and in the future.

With those significant accomplishments passed, the opportunity to do even more is at hand.  Iowa is working.  The Iowa dream is here to be realized.  But I believe we can and we must dream even bigger.  As we look to the future, our path is not dictated.  We have opportunities not seen in other states and other parts of the world.  We need to be true to our constituents and ourselves and we must dream big.  We must dream of an Iowa that is competitive with any other place in the world, an Iowa where it is easier to build a business, to build your ideas, to support a family.  We must dream of an Iowa where a world class education is not a dream but a reality for every Iowa child, an Iowa that embraces the simple goal that every child should be ready to compete in the 21st century marketplace.

We must dream of an Iowa that continually asks the question, how can government better serve people?  An Iowa that uses technology for greater transparency and accountability for taxpayers.  Now is the time -- now is not the time to shy away from challenges and opportunities.  Now is the time to embrace them, to be bold, to move Iowa forward and to increase competitiveness of our state and its people today and for the years to come.

Iowa is working.  But there is more work to be done to realize the Iowa dream.  Let's show everyone that we are up to the challenge.  Thank you.  God Bless you.  And God bless the people of Iowa.


Borg: Governor Terry Branstad getting a standing ovation as he concludes this Condition of the State Address to a joint session of the Iowa legislature.  He is still on the podium speaking there with Kraig Paulsen, Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.

-- and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and her family from the House chamber.

Borg: And that is Senate President Pam Jochum with part of the pomp and ceremony now that will conclude this Condition of the State Address at the Iowa Statehouse before this joint session of the Iowa legislature, the second day of this new legislative session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly.  Governor Branstad now leaving the podium.  He'll go to the well.  You see there in the picture members of the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals in their black robes.  He'll be passing in front of -- there is Chris Branstad, a kiss for Chris and one of the granddaughters and the newest member of the Branstad family.

Borg: Governor Branstad gave a very upbeat analysis of the condition of the state saying several times that theme throughout his speech, Iowa is working, contrasting Iowa with the federal government in taxes, education and also that the Iowa, he said, fiscal house is in order.  He said Iowa's personal incomes are increasing, the unemployment rate is low.  We have a partnership with the federal government in health care that seems to be on its way to working.  But he said the centerpiece of his agenda is Home Base Iowa and that is a plan for recruiting discharged servicemen and women to Iowa and he gave a number of things that he wants to do there.  Among them probably the most significant was relieving those servicemen and women in their pensions, after they have retired, relieving them of paying Iowa income tax.

Borg: I'm joined now by the Senate Majority Leader, democrat Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs who leads the majority democrats in the Iowa Senate.  You've heard many condition of the state addresses over the years, Senator Gronstal.  What can you enthusiastically support --

Gronstal: I think Senate democrats can enthusiastically support all of his goals.  I didn't hear anything here that I have any disagreements.  There's always some details that people will get into but I think the Home Base Iowa program is a great idea. Here we have an opportunity to attract to Iowa veterans that already have the sense of community that Iowa is about, the sense of being part of a team.  So I think that's a great effort to invite returning veterans to come to our state, build a life and a career in our state and it will just simply add to the character of what Iowa is, a state that values above everything else community.

Borg: If you heard nothing that you can't support, and that's good, that's the bipartisan support that the Governor is calling for and you are too, are there some things though that you wish had been included that you could have supported?

Gronstal: I like to focus on what we can agree on and we're hopeful that the Governor will agree.  As a matter of fact I wrote down one note during the speech and he was talking about budget predictability, his concept that we helped craft on biennial budgets.  He talked about budget predictability.  That is precisely what K-12 education needs.  So we look forward to working with him and with the republican House and pass allowable growth or state supplemental aid, different people call it different things.  But schools need to know what they're going to get in the year following this year.  If they need that kind of predictability in order to plan and if we're not going to support schools and tell them how much they're going to get, how are they going to meet the goals of the education reform that we have put in place for them?

Borg: And what you're speaking of there is letting schools know what their allowable growth in their budgets are going to be so they can plan ahead.

Gronstal: We think that is incredibly important and that is part of budget predictability for our local schools, to let them know how much they're going to have.  And the law actually requires us to do that but the last couple of years we have not done that.  So I think that is incredibly important, to let local schools know the resources they're going to have in the fall of '15.

Borg: Much has been said about bipartisan support and we talked about it here.  What is the one thing that you're cautioning your fellow democrats about stay off this subject, this or that, whatever it might be, in order that we don't torpedo bipartisanship in this session?

Gronstal: I think it's important for everybody to be civil and respectful of everybody.  In my opening day speech I talked about the fact that every democrat and every republican has the goal of helping Iowa grow and become a better state.  We all share the same goal.  We may have huge differences in what we believe is necessary to get there, how to do that but we embraced tax relief last year, we said it should be targeted towards small and medium sized businesses.  We worked together on those kinds of issues.  They also worked with us on a skilled worker initiative and the Governor is talking about, in essence, expanding that with the stuff he's talking about in terms of apprenticeship programs.  So I think we all share the same goals and, as I said a hundred times and the press always got tired of hearing it, people of good faith sitting down together, talking about where they have common ground, that's what I encourage my members to do.

Borg: Senator Gronstal, there's much more to talk about and we need to move on in this particular segment but you're going to be with us on Iowa Press on Friday and we look forward to expanding some of those thoughts then.

Gronstal: I look forward to it as well.

Borg: Thank you for joining us.

Gronstal: You're welcome.

Borg: Governor Terry Branstad has given dozens of speeches in this chamber spanning the 80s, 90s and throughout the past 3 years in his 5th term.  Iowa Public Television has been there for all of those Condition of the State addresses and many more.  In fact, dating way back to former Governor Robert Ray.  2014, this current year, marks Iowa Public Television's 45th anniversary on Iowa's airwaves, a tradition that we're very proud to maintain.  Here now though is a look back at more than four decades of Condition of the State addresses on Iowa Public Television.

1975: Our most serious problem now is that many people in this country have lost their confidence.  They fear the worst.  People who fear the worst tend to invite it.  Heads lowered in despair cannot scan horizons for new opportunities.  How do you help?  You do it with performance, the kind of performance that can restore the confidence of people in their government, in themselves and in their future.

1983: We must always take seriously our role in the world community.  So I encourage every Iowan who watches, listens to or reads this message to ponder some very serious matters.  Hunger and world trade, nuclear arms and world peace.

1984: This plan calls for promoting Iowa exports and creating jobs, encouraging educational excellence, protecting young Iowans, curbing substance abuse and drunk driving, toughening criminal procedures and improving Iowa government.

1994: The flood of '93 served to remind us of some valuable Iowa qualities.  In Iowa, government still works.  All problems, even a 500 year flood, can be managed here.  And in 1993 state and local government did just that.

1999: Our property tax system looks like something devised by Rube Goldberg, layered with bygone eras of property tax fixes and hidden opportunities for tax increases.  Tax can and should be cut.

2000: Let us lead.  Let us find a way to give local control to the sighting and location of large livestock facilities. 

2007: Let us dedicate ourselves to making diversity in whatever form it may come a reason to love and not hate, a reason to accept and not reject, a reason to celebrate and not to fight.  We can start by making our schools safe for all of our children by passing the anti-bullying bill.  Do it for them.  Do it for us.  And do it now.

2011: Today Iowa is number one in the nation in renewable energy.  We now generate 20% of our power from renewable sources, up from 5% just four years ago.

Borg: This concludes Iowa Public Television's coverage of Governor Terry Branstad's Condition of the State Address to this 2014 session of Iowa's General Assembly.  We'll be following this legislative session weekly on our Iowa Press program and on Iowa Press, in fact, this Friday we're questioning House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.  So we'll see you back here this weekend for Iowa Press.  For our entire Iowa Public Television production crew, at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines, I'm Dean Borg.  Thanks for joining us today.

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