DES MOINES, Iowa- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds began her Condition of the State Address today (Tuesday) at the Iowa Capitol by honoring Iowans who have died in the line of duty, including Clinton firefighter Lt. Eric Hosette, who died January 5th. She also spoke about the devastating tornadoes last year in Marshalltown and Pella and the "can do" attitude of Iowans recovering from the disasters.
"I am proud to declare, that the condition of the state is strong," said Reynolds.
Iowa is strong highlighted legislative accomplishments of last year, and called for bipartisan cooperation this year. The state's first female governor said her "...vision for the future of Iowa hasn't changed, but the future I see isn't around the corner, or after the next election. The future is now. The time is now to deliver on the promises we've made to Iowans looking for a way up."
Governor Reynolds highlighted Future Ready Iowa and asked the legislature to appropriate $20 million to fund the employment program, which grows apprenticeships.
She also emphasized the state's STEM initiative, encouraging students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, saying kids today are growing up immersed in a world of digital technology, and Iowa needs an education system that adapts to those changes.
Reynolds is asking the legislature for more than $93 million in additional funding for preschool through high school education, which includes a 2.3% increase in per pupil funding. She's also requesting $11.2 million to help districts with disproportionate transportation costs, and a $1 million increase in STEM funding.
Reynolds says that will bring pre-K-12 investment to almost $3.4 billion this year.
Governor Reynolds also spoke of her Empower Rural Iowa Initiative, which focuses on investing and growing rural communities, expanding high-speed internet, and she asked lawmakers to double the amount of workforce housing tax credits for rural communities.
Governor Reynolds also announced the establishment of a Center for Rural Revitalization within the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
Reynolds is also asking lawmakers to help restore they voting rights of felons. She wants voters to weigh in with a constitutional amendment to guarantee voting rights again, rather than leaving the decision up to a governor.
The Governor also addressed mental health reform, saying the state needs to build on changes which began several years ago. She's wants the state to fund four more psychiatric residencies at the University of Iowa, for doctors who will practice in rural communities. Her proposal also includes additional money to train nurse practitioners and physician assistants in mental health.
"I’m also calling on the Legislature to appropriate additional money for home- and community-based children’s mental health services so that we can eliminate the waiting list that currently exists. And I’m requesting $3 million to train teachers to better recognize early signs of mental illness. Creating a comprehensive children’s mental health system will take time. But we can and must take action. The days of merely talking are over."
Governor Reynolds concluded her Condition of the State speech saying Iowa has a bright future, and it's time to cement Iowa’s status as the best state in the nation.
House Minority Whip, Jo Oldson says overall, the Governor's speech included a lot of issues lawmakers can work together on, but the Des Moines Democrat tells WHO Radio News Democrats will want more mental health spending, saying while they appreciate the Governor's work on comprehensive mental health issues, her funding proposal is not sufficient. Oldson says the same is true for the Governor's proposal for education spending.
Oldson says Democrats feel the state's public schools are stagnant and in many ways have fallen behind other states.
Oldson tells WHO Radio Democrats are on board with Future Ready Iowa, and hear a lot about a need for job training and a worker shortage and look forward to advances in that particular program.
"I think there are lots of issues that we can come together on, and we always do every year, we all want to educate our kids, and make sure have good health care, it's just when we get down to the details, it's how we execute," said Oldson.