DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday countered California’s announced ban on taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa by touting the state’s “nice” image as a welcoming place and urging disenchanted California businesses and residents to consider relocating to the Midwest.
Last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Iowa — effective Oct. 4 — as the 11th state subject to California’s 2016 ban on taxpayer-funded trips. The action was prompted by passage last session of a law by Iowa’s GOP-run Legislature and signed by Reynolds that removed gender protections to exempt transition surgery under taxpayer-funded health care systems such as Medicaid.
The policy language in a fiscal 2020 budget bill was in response to a court decision last spring that struck down a ban on Medicaid payments for sex reassignment surgeries.
“This is a narrow provision that clarifies that the Iowa Civil Rights Act doesn’t require taxpayer dollars to pay for sex reassignment and other similar surgeries,” Reynolds told Iowa reporters during a teleconference call from Washington, D.C. “That’s been the state’s position for years.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has filed a lawsuit challenging the new law.
Since 2017, a California law has prohibited taxpayer-funded travel to states that limit gender protections. Becerra issued a statement saying his state has taken “an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”
Asked Wednesday about California’s planned travel ban, Reynolds said: “I think the Iowa story is my response. We are knocking it out of the park when it comes to a pro-growth, pro-business environment with opportunities.”
By contrast, she said, California is “heading in the wrong direction” with businesses “fleeing” a climate of rising taxes, “skyrocketing” costs to live and do business, and the “highest homeless population” in the nation.
“They’ve got a lot of issues going on in California,” Reynolds said.
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Iowa, on the other hand, has a diverse and growing economy, low unemployment, wage growth, education excellence, a productive workforce, a well-run government and a “welcoming” reputation.
“That’s the things we’re focused on in Iowa,” she said. “I think our story is my response to California. Come here. We’ve got great opportunities, great things happening, a great place to work, live, raise a family, innovate, and we’ve got data to back it up. That’s my response.”
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