Editorial: Branstad's vision promising


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A day before Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced his intention to run for a sixth term, he began the new year in earnest with his Condition of the State address on Jan. 14.

In addition to new initiatives such as the Home Base Iowa Act, a tax-reform bill for veterans, Branstad reaffirmed his support for a tuition freeze in the state’s public universities, a new pharmacy building at the UI, and increasing rural connectivity, among others.

Brandstad’s vision for 2014 is admirable, though it leaves for another year many pressing problems facing Iowa, such as a degrading infrastructure and the thousands of Iowans living in poverty. Still, his call for bipartisan work on those problems that can be solved is welcome.

The Home Base Iowa Act, which Branstad called the “centerpiece” of his 2014 agenda, would stop the taxation of military pensions with the aim of bringing more veterans to the state. In-state tuition for veterans and their families and academic credit for military training and experience are also on the table.

“I believe Iowa can offer our nation’s veterans something even greater than a square deal,” he said at the address.

The reference to Theodore Roosevelt’s landmark domestic program of the early 20th century is certainly no accident. Perhaps Branstad hopes to follow in the progressive president’s footsteps. Regardless, increased support for veterans, who are too often cast aside when they return from combat, is much needed.

The governor also voiced his support for another tuition freeze for the state’s public universities. Though the state Board of Regents had voted to hold the in-state tuition at its current level for the second-straight year, Branstad set aside $19 million in his proposed fiscal 2015 budget for the freeze. David Roederer, the director of the state Department of Management, said the sum effectively “buys the tuition freeze,” because it fills the gap a tuition hike would bring.

The measure, not altogether surprising considering the broad support for a freeze among the regents and the Legislature, nonetheless sends a definitive message. With student debt continuing to rise across the nation, Branstad intends to get behind a second-straight tuition freeze for the first time since 1975 in Iowa.

Another facet of the governor’s 2014 agenda is the continued pledge for a new UI pharmacy building. It’s a welcome change for today’s facilities, which UI Pharmacy Dean Donald Letendre has called “woefully inadequate for educational delivery.” 

After touring the building in October 2013, Branstad has set aside $2 million in the budget, a move praised by UI President Sally Mason.

With similar amounts parceled out for UNI and ISU projects, the governor’s commitment to the state’s universities is encouraging. As the legislative session begins for the year, time will tell if Iowa’s legislators feel the same.

Branstad’s proposals went beyond education. In a follow-up to the Connect Every Iowan Initiative he unveiled in September, Branstad said bringing broadband Internet to those in rural areas was important for the state economy as a whole.

“As our connection speeds increase, so does the pace of our economic progress, so does our ability to grow jobs, and so does our ability to turn the Iowa Dream into reality,” he said.

Branstad emphasized this idea of the “Iowa Dream” several times in his address, hoping to highlight the state as a beacon of opportunity.

With the proposals he has laid out in his Condition of the State speech, though they are somewhat limited in scope, the governor has taken several good steps toward making the Iowa Dream sound less like a cliché and more like a promise.

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