DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds gave her fourth Condition of the State address, and Republican lawmakers and conservative groups applauded the vision she laid out.
“A lot of the things that the governor brought up, I think are priorities that House Republicans have been talking about as well. I think that’s a positive sign for this upcoming legislative session,” House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said during a virtual press conference.
He noted that Reynolds had an aggressive plan to expand child care that took a hit during the pandemic.
“We’ve also started assigning some bills here in the house as well, that I’m sure a lot of them will intersect with one another,” Grassley added.
He said he’s interested in seeing the details of her broadband program. Reynolds called for the state to invest $450 million over four years to bring high-speed broadband to every part of the state.
Grassley noted that Reynolds could bring a bold agenda because of the fiscal policies that Republicans introduced.
“I think we have to continue to remind ourselves that the decisions that we’ve made as a legislature have allowed us to have some of these proposals come from our governor today. And she’s being very forward thinking in the return,” he said.
Grassley also spoke to her school choice agenda.
“There are several things that the governor touched on that I know we want to be a part of conversations going into the legislative session and throughout the legislative session,” he stated.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, praised Reynolds.
“2020 was a difficult year, one more challenging than anyone expected, yet Governor Reynolds led Iowa very well through that time. I appreciate her tireless efforts over the last several months,” he said in a released statement.
“The governor and Senate Republicans share many of the same priorities and I look forward to working with my fellow senators to implement that shared agenda. We are eager to work with her and the House of Representatives to ease the tax burden, implement a balanced budget, and improve education by ensuring parents and students have a choice to attend school 100% in-person,” Whitver added.
State Rep. Shannon Latham, R-Sheffield, said she was encouraged by what she heard.
“After listening to Governor Reynolds deliver her Condition of the State address, I am even more encouraged about our state’s future. Gov. Reynolds outlined many key issues that are also my priorities, including the need for universal, affordable high-speed internet, as well as affordable and accessible child care. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Iowa Legislature on these issues – and more – to keep Iowa moving forward,” she told The Iowa Torch.
Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said Reynolds laid out a “great agenda.”
“Whether it’s eliminating the triggers or income tax cuts fully are implemented, or whether it’s focusing on making sure those barriers, financial barriers, that are preventing parents from being able to decide where to send their children. Tearing those barriers down and making sure parents can send their kids where they want to send them for school. I think it’s really a great agenda, one that I’m sure our caucus, Republican senators, are eager to begin working on and putting forth legislation to accomplish these goals,” he told The Iowa Torch.
State Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, told The Iowa Torch that he stood up and enthusiastically applauded several times throughout her speech.
“I was highly encouraged by a lot of it,” he said.
Holt did note House Republicans have to look at the details of her proposals when she introduces legislation and releases more information. He expressed concern about the price tag. The broadband plan alone would be $450 million over four years.
“I haven’t seen the details, but that would come out to something like $100 million a year, so we have to be careful. We have balanced budgets in Iowa. We have to make sure we can afford what we do. And so we’ll have to take a good hard look at that. See if they fit in with the rest of the priorities of Iowa,” he stated. “Otherwise on a number of her initiatives I absolutely support.”
State Senator Carrie Koelker, R-Dyersville, told The Iowa Torch that she was impressed.
“I was very impressed with the plan Governor Reynolds rolled out after the year that we’ve had. I think it showcases what we truly need to focus on and that Iowa can be stronger and better after all of this,” she said.
The focus on broadband and education did not surprise Koelker. She said the pandemic brought a lot of problems to the forefront.
“I think it truly opened everyone’s eyes and, obviously, the governor’s eyes,” she said. She added that Reynolds’ plan was bold and put children in Iowa first.
“I was energized. The governor was energized,” Koelker concluded.
State Rep. Holly Brink, R-Oskaloosa, said she appreciated Reynolds’ emphasis on getting kids back to school and parental choice.
“The Governor prioritized issues that our caucus has talked about for the last few years. I appreciate her emphasis on getting our kids back into the classroom and giving parents more choice in their child’s education. The governor emphasized childcare and the importance of public-private partnerships – and the role it plays in building a strong workforce. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the governor,” she told The Iowa Torch.
State Senator Jesse Green, R-Harcourt, told The Iowa Torch that Republicans are well poised to push a conservative agenda.
“This is the strongest trifecta we have seen in decades. We are experiencing circumstances that haven’t been experienced in any of our lifetimes. Difficult circumstances show us why conservative principles matter, and voters responded,” he said.
“Our Governor did a great job highlighting tonight that we can not just look at returning to normal, but rather use this situation to be in the best condition this state has ever seen. Every issue that means so much to every Iowan will be addressed by our proven Republican leadership. Our strong fiscal position will allow Iowans to keep more of their hard earned money, fund our broadband efforts, and give parents more choice and resources to pursue the best education available for their children,” Green said.
“The opportunity is now to transform Iowa into the state that everyone can pursue their dreams, and Gov. Reynolds tonight laid out the vision,” he concluded.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig thanked Reynolds’ for her advocacy of Iowa agriculture.
“I want to thank Gov. Reynolds for her leadership and continued support of the Iowa agriculture community during this very challenging year. Despite the economic setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our state is in a stronger position to respond than others and that’s because of Gov. Reynolds’ and the Iowa Legislature’s responsible fiscal management,” he said in a released statement.
“As we continue down the road to recovery, I look forward to collaborating with Gov. Reynolds, the Iowa Legislature, the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and other private partners to drive agricultural priorities — like renewable fuels, water quality and environmental stewardship, and foreign animal disease prevention and response planning — that pave the way for future growth,” Naig added.
Iowans for Tax Relief Vice President Chris Hagenow praised the state’s fiscal discipline.
“Governor Reynolds has worked tirelessly to see our state through the challenges of the past year. Iowa is stronger today because of her leadership. We appreciate her steadfast work to keep the state open for business, which is in stark contrast to many other states in the union,” he noted in a released statement.
“Likewise, our state is in a strong financial position because of the responsible budgeting practices of Governor Reynolds and the legislature leadership. Our state budget is balanced, and we are projected to collect a nearly $300 million surplus next year,” Hagenow stated.
He also agreed that the state needs to finish what it started with tax reform in 2018.
“We wholeheartedly agree with Governor Reynolds that the triggers in the 2018 income tax bill are no longer necessary, and the lower tax rates in that bill should take effect. Governor Reynolds understands that Iowans deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money and that lower tax rates will make our state even more competitive in the future,” Hagenow concluded.
Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity (AFP) in Iowa, praised her speech.
“We appreciate Governor Reynolds for not only recognizing the challenges Iowans face during the current pandemic, but also articulating a vision of opportunity for our future. We encourage the legislature to work with Governor Reynolds to remove regulatory barriers in our economy and shift the focus in education policy towards reforms that are in the best interest of families and students,” he said in a released statement.
“On behalf of citizens across the state, we will continue to work with the legislature to ensure government is not a roadblock to opportunity for Iowans. We believe a good place to start is by creating a better tax and regulatory environment so that Iowa’s economy can be put on an even greater trajectory,” Klein added.
The Iowa Association of Christian Schools applauded Reynolds’ advocacy of school choice.
“For the first time, we have a Governor willing to champion an effort that includes Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and other measures to ensure parents have access to choices that best meets their child’s educational needs: whether public, private, homeschool, or other educational service. For over seven years, we’ve been a part of a coalition of parents and schools that has introduced a number of ESA proposals and we stand ready to support efforts that simultaneously empower parents while preserving what makes each option unique and high quality,” they said in a statement on their website.
They said they agree with Reynolds that school choice is not “a zero sum game.”
“We believe the legislature has a chance to ensure every option is adequately funded, supported, and empowers parents to make choices and have ownership over their family’s education. We look forward to working with the Iowa legislature to advance ESAs and ensure that whatever is considered and passed meets the needs of families looking for options and respects the diverse missions and role of Iowa’s private schools,” they added.
The Republican Party of Iowa applauded Reynolds’ leadership.
“Tonight Governor Reynolds showed Iowans that she’s a leader with compassion, bold ideas, and the grit and determination to get things done. Her bold agenda of getting our children back in school, investing record amounts into broadband internet infrastructure, and fighting for our men and women in law enforcement prove she’s the leader Iowa needs to come back stronger than we were before this pandemic,” they said in a released statement.
Note: The Iowa Torch reached out to multiple Democrat lawmakers for their reaction, and as of publication, none have replied. Should that change, we will add those comments in a separate article.