A historic moment with challenges looming

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Gov. Kim Reynolds made history this week by becoming the first woman to hold Iowa’s top job. But in her pitch-perfect inaugural address Wednesday morning, she emphasized making history is only the auspicious start of her new and challenging journey.

“While I am extremely proud of that fact, there needs to be more to it,” Reynolds said.

“We can pursue a bold vision of innovation, ingenuity and growth such that our chapter in the history of Iowa will be filled with great accomplishments, with page upon page about how we made Iowa an even better place to live, work, innovate, create and raise a family.”

Reynolds sketched out the first broad strokes of that vision. She called for tax reforms aimed at lowering rates and simplifying the tax structure. Details remain to be seen, but we’re glad Reynolds mentioned taking aim at “a patchwork of exemptions, deductions and credits.” A long list of expensive breaks are sapping scarce state revenues with too little proof of a return on our investment. Reynolds now has an opportunity to weed out unnecessary giveaways.

Her emphasis on energy policy makes sense in a state where biofuels, wind and other alternative sources are economically vital. Reynolds wants to encourage and spread “pockets of innovation” in the state’s public schools. And she set the ambitious goal of having 70 percent of the state’s work force receive education or training beyond high school by 2025.

Looming beyond Reynolds’ moment of celebration are the challenges she’ll face in the days ahead.

Iowa’s financial situation remains tenuous, with underperforming revenues and large, long-term commitments to property tax relief and other initiatives gobbling up already modest growth in tax collections. How Reynolds can pursue her vision in the face of a tight budget remains to be seen.

Reynolds didn’t mention addressing Iowa’s serious water quality problems. With possible legislative solutions stymied over stubborn divisions, Reynolds could provide leadership needed to break the stalemate.

That’s the rough road ahead. But for now, we can pause to consider how a state once derided for having never sent a woman to Washington or Terrace Hill now has women occupying the governor’s office, the Iowa House speaker’s chair and a U.S. senate seat. It’s progress that should make all Iowans proud.

• Comments: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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