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Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 2022 Condition of the State address Tuesday night was 48 minutes and covered topics ranging from education and the environment to technology and taxes.
Some statements drew cheers, while others might have angered listeners. The Fact Checker checks only verifiable claims — so if the governor expressed an opinion or a made a vague statement that can’t be proved, we didn’t check it.
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Read on to see which facts she nailed and which ones may have missed the mark.
Claim: “In the last eight months alone we invested $300 million more in broadband …”
The Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program on Sept. 14 announced $97.5 million in grants for broadband infrastructure projects around the state. On Jan. 4, the state issued a notice of intent to award another $210 million in American Rescue Plan Act money for broadband projects. That money hasn’t been paid out yet, but the commitment to invest is there.
Claim: “ … repealed the inheritance tax on families.”
Reynolds in June signed Senate File 619, which phases out the inheritance tax, or estate tax, by 20 percent a year until it’s gone on Jan. 1, 2025. So if someone dies in 2025, the person who inherits his or her estate would not pay state taxes on that income. There still is a federal estate tax, but it doesn’t kick in unless a person is going to inherit more than $11.7 million, AARP reported.
Claim: “Last year, the state ended with a $1.2 billion surplus, on top of $1 billion of cash receipts.”
Iowa ended fiscal 2021 with a general-fund surplus of nearly $1.24 billion, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency reported Sept. 27. Reynolds said in her speech Iowa already had $1 billion in cash receipts, but the printed version of her speech said “cash reserves” and, in the past, she’s cited that $1 billion figure for the state’s cash reserve. We think she just misspoke. The legislative agency said the state’s combined cash reserve and economic emergency fund for fiscal 2021 actually was $801 million — about $200 million less than Reynolds said.
Claim: “Four million fewer Americans are working now than they were before the pandemic.”
The Governor’s Office pointed to a Yahoo Finance report on the U.S. Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary report released earlier this month. However, the report states the civilian labor force was down by about 2.4 million participants last month when compared to levels in February 2020.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did report in June 2021 that there were 4.9 million more people unemployed and able to work in the fourth quarter of 2020 than there were at the end of 2019. Experts have noted there could be a number of factors in the reasons people chose not to work, such as lack of child care or concerns about the virus.
Claim: “Iowa is in a better position than most, with the ninth highest labor participation rate in the country. But we’re still down from where we were at the beginning of 2020.”
Iowa does have the ninth highest labor participation rate in the United States, which calculates the percentage of the population ages 16 and older that is either working or actively seeking work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December that Iowa was behind Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Washington, D.C.
As of December, Iowa’s labor participation rate was 66.8 percent — about 5 percent above the U.S. average. But that is down compared with the beginning of 2020.
In January 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Iowa’s labor participation rate was 70 percent. That’s 3.2 percent higher than the current rate.
Claim: “Five of the state’s top-10 postings are health care careers, with registered nurses and nursing assistants at the top of the list.”
As of Jan. 11, the day of Reynolds’ address, five of the top 10 job postings on the Iowa Workforce Development job board were in the health care industry. Registered nurses and nursing assistants did top the list at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, followed by licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses; physicians and surgeons; and physical therapists.
Claim: “The importance of a strong public school system is reflected in the state budget, where public education accounts for more than 56 percent of our state funding.”
Public education is the largest line item on the state’s balance sheet.
Out of $8.2 billion in total general fund appropriations, Reynolds’ fiscal 2023 budget proposal — which will span the year starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2023 — includes $4.6 billion in spending on education overall, including the Department of Education and Iowa Board of Regents. That is 55.8 percent of the state’s spending, which rounds up to the 56 percent of all state spending Reynolds claimed.
Claim: “... for K-12 (education), that’s over $3.7 billion, and it’s increased nearly $1 billion in the last decade.”
Reynolds’ fiscal 2023 budget proposal calls for $3.68 billion in preK-12 education spending. That is up approximately $1 billion since fiscal 2012, when the state spent around $2.6 billion.
Claim: “When U.S. News and World Report ranked Iowa the No. 1 state for opportunity last year, it wasn’t because we wanted it. It was because we earned it.”
While Reynolds is correct in stating that the U.S. News and World Report ranked Iowa as No. 1 in their Opportunity Rankings list last year, greater context is needed since “opportunity” is ranked through multiple metrics. The Opportunity Rankings take three categories into account: affordability, economic opportunity and equality. Iowa ranked fourth in affordability, 12th in economic opportunity and 27th in equality.
Among 71 other metrics ranked by the U.S. News and World Report this year, Iowa ranked 27th in economy, 19th in infrastructure and 23rd in fiscal stability.
Claim: “Iowa is a leader in renewable energy. In fact, we lead the nation in the production of both ethanol and biodiesel and the crops that make them.”
Iowa also continues to lead in wind energy, which was not mentioned in Reynolds’s address. Wind power provided 57 percent of in-state electricity generation, according to the 2021 Land-Based Wind Market Report from the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s leagues ahead of the over 30 percent produced in Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.
Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.
If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the Fact Checker team are Elijah Decious, Erin Jordan, Marissa Payne and Michaela Ramm. This Fact Checker was researched and written by the team.