Branstad Gives One of His Last Public Events as Governor at WCC

URBANDALE, Iowa-Governor Branstad gave a recap of the 2017 Iowa legislative session at the Westside Conservative Club Breakfast at the Iowa Machine Shed on Wednesday.  He also expressed his excitement for his upcoming ambassadorship to China once his confirmation is complete.

“This was not an easy session.  As many of you know, the farm economy has not been good for the last several years.  But the good news is that we had new leadership, and things are changing.  We just had US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visit Iowa, and he is a strong supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

When talking about the state legislature, Governor Branstad said, “We made some tough decisions this year.  We made the decision to balance the budget and we did it without raising taxes, and we did it without doing massive across-the-board cuts like we saw with Culver.  Even though we had to do over $100 million in de-appropriations, no reduction was made to K-12 education.  For the first time in years, the budget for supplemental state aid was set within the first 30 days, and we increased funding for schools by $40 million.”

Another tough decision the Governor highlighted was collective bargaining reform.

“Reforming collective bargaining was really needed, because unfortunately, under the collective bargaining system our public employee unions paid virtually nothing for health insurance, while taxpayers were paying $23,000 a year.  We felt it was absolutely essential to get that out from under collective bargaining.  If you’ve followed what they did in Wisconsin six years ago, they’ve really given school districts a lot more flexibility, and this year, Governor Walker was even able to provide a dividend because of the savings they’ve had.  Compare that to Illinois, where the public employee unions control everything.  They haven’t had a budget in over two years, they have the worst unfunded pension liability, they have the most debt per capita, so the contrast is really great.  Illinois is totally out of touch, and that’s why companies and people are leaving there in droves.”

Governor Branstad mentioned two bills that he signed into law on Tuesday.  The first legalizes fireworks in Iowa, and the second allows distilleries to serve their products on-site.

The Governor attributes the accomplishments of this session to the Republican trifecta.

“This was a hard-working, productive, successful session.  That’s because we had finally Republicans in control of the state Senate who worked with the Republican House and Republican Governor.”

Governor Branstad also touched on federal government.

“I want to thank you for sending Congressmen David Young, Rod Blum, and Steve King back to Congress.  For years, I’ve been saying that Obamacare is unaffordable and unsustainable.  The cost has gone up so much that we have seen many insurance companies drop out of the individual market to the point where Iowans in 94 out of 99 counties literally have no choice under the Obamacare system.  That’s why we need to replace it with something affordable.  That’s what the House of Representatives passed, and hopefully it will be passed by the Senate.  The present system is broken, and it’s failing.  We can see it in our own state and across the country.”

When talking about his plans during his ambassadorship in China, Governor Branstad said that one of his main goals is to get American beef back on the market in China.

“We sell them a lot of pork.   I want to get the market open for beef again.  We haven’t been able to sell beef in China because of Mad Cow Disease 13 years ago.  I want to be able to serve Iowa premium beef at the embassy.”

Governor Branstad is confident that Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will be able to fill his shoes.

“Kim Reynolds is going to be a great Governor.  I have worked with her over six years.  First of all, she spent 14 years as a county treasurer.  She was a leader among county treasurers and was well-respected by her colleagues.  She got the Best County Treasurer in America Award as a small county treasurer in Iowa.  As Lieutenant Governor, she’s been a full partner, leading our STEM effort and developing a long-term energy initiative for the state.  She’s co-chairing Future Ready Iowa to coordinate education workforce and economic development.  Water quality and tax reform are going to be high priorities for her.”

The Governor was asked his opinion on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s opposition to allowing Reynolds to choose her own Lieutenant Governor after she steps up as Governor.

“I was Lieutenant Governor back under the old system, when the Governor and Lieutenant Governor were elected separately.  But then the people of Iowa decided that it would be better to have them elected as a team for continuity and to have the Lieutenant Governor serve in the executive branch rather than in the legislature.  1990 was the first year we did that, and it’s worked well ever since.  You need to read the constitution and the law together, and I think the Attorney General has been given some very bad political advice from his staff, so at the last minute, he changed his mind.  I think it’s absolutely wrong, and the people of Iowa recognize that.  We need to have an Attorney General who represents the people of Iowa, and not his own partisan viewpoint or that of his staff.  I think it’s time for a new Attorney General.”  He also mentioned Miller’s flip-flopping from being a pro-life Democrat to supporting abortion.

For the first time in history, the Republican Attorney General Association has targeted Miller with an ad campaign based on his partisan flip-flop.

When asked what he will miss most when he leaves Iowa, Governor Branstad said that it is the people he will miss the most.

“I love this state.  I’m a lifelong Iowan except for my two years in the Army, and I really have enjoyed traveling the state, meeting people, and getting to know the history and heritage of Iowa.  Our state has a lot to offer, and I’m not going away permanently.  I’ll still come back to visit for the State Fair and the holidays.  We certainly are going to miss it.”

MacKenzie Dreeszen is a legislative assistant in the Iowa House and a political consultant specializing in fundraising.