Democratic rivals fault Reynolds' speech

Candidates question cutting taxes while paying off debt

SEIU Local 199 president and Democratic candidate for Governor Cathy Glasson speaks outside the office of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during a Fight for $15 rally after Reynolds delivered her Condition of the State Address to a joint assembly of the of state legislature at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
SEIU Local 199 president and Democratic candidate for Governor Cathy Glasson speaks outside the office of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during a Fight for $15 rally after Reynolds delivered her Condition of the State Address to a joint assembly of the of state legislature at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — It is the speech they one day hope to deliver.

So several of the Democratic candidates for governor offered their perspectives on the Condition of the State address given Tuesday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

It was Reynolds’ first such address; she rose from lieutenant governor this past summer when former Gov. Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China.

Reynolds struck out on her own, not once mentioning Branstad. Before diving too deep into policy, she addressed sexual harassment in the workplace, a topic on the Iowa Legislature’s radar after the state settled for $1.75 million with a former legislative staffer who accused co-workers of sexual harassment.

During her roughly 44-minute address, Reynolds said her hope is that a water quality bill is the first she signs as governor; that she has charged her acting lieutenant governor, Adam Gregg, with leading an initiative exploring ways to revitalize rural Iowa; that her tax proposal will include lower individual rates, benefits middle-class families and does not include business tax reform; and that she acknowledges mistakes were made in the rollout of Iowa’s private Medicaid management system, but that she still believes is the best approach.

The Republican governor also discussed mental health care, public education funding and workforce training.

But the Democrats running for governor weren’t buying her message that “the condition of the state is strong.”

Nate Boulton and Cathy Glasson spoke at public events in the Capitol immediately after the governor’s address.

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As a state senator, Boulton was in the Iowa House chamber for Reynolds’ speech. Minutes later, he responded outside the chamber.

Boulton noted that Reynolds highlighted Republican changes to state collective bargaining and workers’ compensation laws in 2017 — efforts that Boulton was a leader in speaking out against this past year.

“You heard an emphasis on gutting workers’ compensation and taking away rights of public employees to bargain over their health insurance and better wages as points of pride for this administration,” Boulton said later in a statement.

He also criticized Reynolds over public school funding levels, the state budget shortfall, the lack of a water quality funding proposal and private Medicaid management.

“We need a strong vision forward for this state, not just for the next 20 months, but for the next 20 years,” he said.

Glasson, a nurse and labor leader, spoke at a rally just outside the governor’s formal office in the Capitol. Organized by advocacy groups and attended by roughly a couple dozen people, the rally focused on a call for Iowa’s minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour.

“I believe the job of the governor is to raise wages and raise the standard of living for all Iowans,” Glasson said, adding that she thinks that can be accomplished with a $15 minimum wage and strong unions. “We have to do it fast, because working people and working families cannot wait any longer.”

Glasson also called for a repeal of the collective bargaining changes, saying that would be “a start but not enough.”

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Fred Hubbell issued a statement that focused on the condition of the state budget. Because of state revenues that grew but at a pace slower than expected, lawmakers and the governor last year were forced to plug a budget hole of more than $100 million. This budget year, there is another shortfall of more than $30 million.

In the wake of the shortfalls, Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, called Reynolds’ desire for tax cuts “misguided.”

“As someone who has balanced many budgets throughout my career, Gov. Reynolds’ fiscally irresponsible actions are alarming and risk turning our state into Kansas,” Hubbell said in a statement, referring to Kansas’ tax cuts that helped create havoc with its budget. “The fact the governor is pushing tax cuts despite the massive debt she just created shows she puts politics and her re-election campaign before everyday Iowans. This state can’t afford to lower taxes before fully paying off our debt.”

Andy McGuire said Reynolds’ address was “filled with lots of promises and political rhetoric,” and also criticized Reynolds for touting the myriad conservative policies implemented during the 2017 session.

McGuire, a physician and former state party chairwoman, also criticized Reynolds for not reaching out to Iowa’s minorities in her speech.

“It is also clear that this administration is clearly out of touch with Iowa’s minority communities, and (Reynolds) showed zero commitment to making Iowa a more inclusive state,” McGuire said in a statement. “Gov. Reynolds made no mention of efforts to curb the bullying of LGBTQ+ students in our classrooms or efforts to combat or curtail the recent, racially motivated incidents in our state.”

In the governor’s defense, and in a preview of how Reynolds will uphold her record on the campaign trail this year, a spokesman for her campaign called the Democrats’ statements “decades-old, worn-out criticisms” and cited independent studies that have rated Iowa No. 1 in the country for middle-class families and as the third-best managed state.

“While the governor is focused on doing even more to unleash opportunity across the state, Democrats are only belittling Iowa’s success and proposing nothing new of their own,” Reynolds campaign spokesman Pat Garrett said.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net.

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