DES MOINES — Osceola Republican Kim Reynolds will make history again Tuesday when she becomes the first female governor to deliver a Condition of the State address to a joint session of the Iowa General Assembly.
Reynolds said she is excited about the opportunity to talk directly to Iowans in an address televised statewide — to share with them a little bit about who she is and her vision for the state as she presents her first agenda and budget plan since taking over from Terry Branstad, who stepped down last May to become the U.S. ambassador to China.
Reynolds sidestepped questions about her speech while meeting with reporters Monday, but did give a little flavor of it.
“It’s more about acknowledging that as a small-town girl from rural Iowa, that if you dream big and work hard that anything can happen, and I think that applies to anybody. So that’s my message — to not be afraid to dream big and go out there and challenge yourself. If you do that, I think that big things can happen.”
Reynolds said she has traveled the state extensively but doesn’t feel she really has introduced herself to Iowans in a way that traces her background, talks about who she is, what her vision is and makes the case for implementing her goals.
“I like to do that, I really do — my optimism and enthusiasm for Iowans and for the state hopefully comes through when I’m talking about what I think are some great opportunities and some changes that we can make to help drive that. and that’s exciting,” she said in a recent interview.
Reynolds faces election this year to a full term, and has drawn both Republican and Democratic rivals.
A former county treasurer, state senator and lieutenant governor, Reynolds already had a dry run of sorts for Tuesday’s address when she delivered her inaugural remarks after taking the oath of office last May. She also has made appearances in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
“I think I’m approachable, I think I’m accessible and I want to make sure that Iowans know that so that they feel comfortable with me,” said Reynolds. “That’s one of the reasons that we’re out in the state a lot — so that Iowans can come up and share good things or bad things and it’s really helpful.”
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, also a trailblazer serving as the first woman in the top House post, said she is impressed with Reynolds’ energy and the passion she brings to her job.
“I think she’s going to be a great leader. I think she’s done a great job so far and that’s just going to grow. I think we’ve got a great opportunity before us,” noted Upmeyer. “I enjoy working with her. I think she is a good listener. She’s open to innovative ideas that people bring to the table. It’s not just her way or the highway.”
Reynolds has indicated her priorities for the upcoming legislative session will include making the state’s tax code simpler, fairer and more competitive; training Iowans so they have the skills needed for successful careers; educating the state’s children to meet the demands of modern employment; and further developing the state’s energy plan to continue to maximize renewable energy sources.
Legislative Republicans say much of their focus will be on tax relief and reform and dealing with a current budget shortfall projected at more than $36 million before formulating a new fiscal 2019 budget.
Reynolds, who indicated she would spell out some guidelines on how Iowa should modernize its tax code when she speaks Tuesday, said tax changes should be fiscally responsible and sustainable for the long term.
“The condition of the state is strong,” the governor said. “We have a lot of opportunities moving forward. I think there’s tremendous optimism with the tax reform that just passed at the federal level. We’re seeing a lot of positive things happen from that.”
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