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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ends open state budget hearings with agency directors

She plans to hold a public budget hearing this month, but will meet with agency leaders in private

Gov. Kim Reynolds announces 22 state grants to employers and communities that will provide matching funds to bolster job skills training in high-demand career areas during a news conference Tuesday at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines. Broadlawns was one of the grant recipients. It will use state money to expand its certified nursing assistant certification program. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds announces 22 state grants to employers and communities that will provide matching funds to bolster job skills training in high-demand career areas during a news conference Tuesday at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines. Broadlawns was one of the grant recipients. It will use state money to expand its certified nursing assistant certification program. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she’s ending a long-standing tradition established by her mentor, Terry Branstad, of holding prelegislative session budget hearings with state agency leaders.

But she still plans to offer the public an opportunity to give her suggestions at the Capitol.

“We’re doing a public budget hearing. I’m not doing it with individual departments. I’m doing it differently this year,” Reynolds told reporters Tuesday during her weekly news conference.

Open meetings with department directors, state board members and top state elected officials were a hallmark of former Gov. Branstad’s record-breaking run as the nation’s longest-serving governor — a practice he said he followed to provide transparency and accountability in state government.

Reynolds said she is conducting one-on-one meetings independently with administration officials to talk about fiscal 2021 state budget prospects and needs, inquire about initiatives underway or being considered and to look at new opportunities. But she’s doing it in private.

“I really have found that to be very, very productive to have the opportunity to sit down with each individual director and spend the time and then we, of course, will do the public budget hearing some time in December,” she told reporters.

22 receive Innovation Fund grants

Reynolds made the remarks at Broadlawns Medical Center, where she announced a second round of matching state funding to help employers establish programs that have bolstered job skills for at least 1,300 Iowans as a way to address Iowa’s worker shortage in high-demand careers.

Future Ready Iowa provides Iowans with life-changing opportunities while simultaneously helping employers grow their local workforce talent pipeline,” Reynolds said in announcing 22 recipients of $568,000 from the Employer Innovation Fund — a matching grant that helps employers provide postsecondary training and education opportunities for their employees.

The Legislature appropriated $1.2 million for the matching fund to fuel grassroots innovation among Iowa businesses and communities. The initial round funded 13 applications with $387,425. A third-round application period with $244,200 in remaining funds closes Dec. 17. Details are at iowagrants.gov.

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Jessica Dunker of the Iowa Restaurant Association was among the grant recipients in attendance. She called the program a “life changer” and said her organization will use its $50,000 matching grant to expand its culinary and management training program to at least six more high schools.

“We have a huge need in our industry for people to choose it as a career. We are adding a thousand new jobs net every year for the next 10 (years),” Dunker said.

Similarly, Bill Holland, who traveled from Decorah, said without the $50,000 state matching grant, his company wouldn’t be able to afford the simulator it now will buy to train people to work with heavy construction equipment.

“There wouldn’t have been a return on investment without it,” he noted, “so it opens up that opportunity.”

Reynolds said she hopes the success of the program will persuade the Legislature to appropriate at least $1.2 million if not more when it convenes its 2020 session in January.

“I’m such a believer in the program,” the governor said. “It is working.”

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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