Branstad talks education, taxes, global warming and guns

Governor spoke to The Gazette's editorial board on Tuesday

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will push lawmakers to adopt education reform by February so school funding can be set by mid-April, he said Tuesday.

Sounds doable, but five terms as governor has taught Branstad otherwise.

"Difficult decisions get left for the end," he told The Gazette's editorial board. "But putting it off is not going to make it easier."

Branstad's $187 million education reform proposal would increase pay for new teachers, revise the system for teacher advancement and recognition and encourage high school students to complete a "career-ready" portfolio in addition to traditional tests like the ACT and SAT.

Branstad's budget doesn't provide new money for schools because he wants to secure the reforms first. But he hopes the reform and funding pieces can move forward simultaneously at the Statehouse.

The governor, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, promoted their plan to reduce commercial and industrial property tax values by 20 percent over four years. The state would provide direct funding to local government to make up for the loss in taxes.

"Some companies don't even consider Iowa because the property tax just isn't competitive," Branstad said.

Branstad's fiscal 2014 budget would provide some funds to use 178 beds in community-based corrections facilities in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Ottumwa, Sioux City and Waterloo. Other facilities will remain vacant because there's not enough money for staffing, he said Tuesday.

Editorial board visits often bounce from topic to topic. Tuesday's visit hit on global warming, which Branstad downplayed.

"Whatever is happening, people project it into the future," Branstad said. "We're in a cycle right now, we're experiencing great warming. But there have been other times it's gotten colder."

Branstad predicted Iowa will not change gun laws, even after the school shootings in Connecticut.

"A lot of fellow sportsmen think this the first step to the government coming to collect their firearms," said Branstad, a longtime hunter who recently bagged an eight-point buck.

The governor indicated he's still irked the National Rifle Association endorsed former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, Branstad's opponent in 2010. Culver, a Democrat, signed a bill in April 2010 that removed much of sheriffs' discretion to deny concealed weapon permits.

"I'm sure that's why Culver got the NRA endorsement," Branstad said. "I wasn't born yesterday."

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