Branstad delivers an ambitious Condition

Maybe it wasn't your favorite Condition of the State address. But it probably had a lot of the same words.

After all, Gov. Terry Branstad uttered more than 3,700 of them this morning.

Clearly, the governor was keenly aware of which state's condition he was addressing. His speech mentioned "Iowa"/"Iowans" and the like, 107 times, by my count, in the prepared text. Not surprising.

It was taxing, at times, with variations of "tax" or "taxes" mentioned 30 times, with "property taxes" garnering 18 alone. It was educational, with "education" and "schools" getting 17 each. "Job"/"Jobs" was uttered 15 times.

"History" beat the "future" 7-6. "Best" drubbed "worst" 12-0. Best education, best students, best in the world, best financial position, etc. Big speeches are no time for modesty.

So you don't need a decoder ring to surmise that this governor is primarily focused on property tax relief and education reform, with hopes of jobs and the best schools in history. He took up a large chunk of his speech explaining how he'd like accomplish his two, massive goals, down to the wonky details of rollbacks and growth caps. No one can accuse him of having a vague vision.

His hefty laundry list even came with a trip or two through the spin cycle. Branstad said Iowa has created 100,000 jobs, failing to note that it's really 23,000 or so when you subtract jobs lost. Gross, net, whatever. Let the economists sort it out.

It is, perhaps, the most ambitious, complex policy agenda set out by a governor since Gov. Tom Vilsack used to blow our minds with his marathon treatises detailing all things important and necessary.

And unlike his "stern grandfather" speech of 2010, Branstad held out his hand more often than he pointed fingers.

"This is the chapter in our history that you and I, each and every one of us in this chamber, have the opportunity to write.† So letís write it well and write it together," Branstad said.†

He pared back his commercial property tax reduction and dropped all talk of cutting corporate income taxes. Two words he never mentioned were "Republican" and "Democrat." Although "compromise" also didn't appear.

The question is will it appear between now and May?

"We have some strong disagreements on this stuff," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in an interview afterward with IPTV. Gronstal said he's "disappointed" with the governor's funding proposals for K-12 education, which includes no increase in basic aid to schools while $187 million is pumped into proposed school reforms over the next 5 years. Gronstal says it's not enough.

The governor's property tax relief plan alone is enough to tie lawmakers in knots for months.

And that's going to be the hard part, mostly behind the scenes, where deals will emerge or collapse, and where words may be uttered that can't be counted or recounted here. It's certain that, as I type, lawmakers are sifting through the details of the $6.5 billion FY 14 budget plan Branstad delivered before his speech. And they're finding stuff they do not like. Not at all. Both parties.†

And, really, condition of the state speeches are similar to another annual ritual, the Governor's Charity Steer Show. In this case, the governor trots out his prize proposals, shows them around the ring and then hands them over to the Legislature. He takes one last wistful glance at them before he departs.

So now, let the sausage making begin. (And, note to PETA, it's only a tortured metaphor.)


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