COUNCIL BLUFFS — Fresh off a tough election battle, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is laying out her vision for the state.
Reynolds, a Republican, offered her first Condition of the State speech this month after being elected to her first full term.
In some ways her vision builds upon the past two years, when she served out the rest of Terry Branstad’s term after he was appointed as the ambassador to China. She called for further tax overhauls and asked the Legislature to send her a water quality bill to sign.
In other ways, she charts a new path. She said “mistakes were made” in the state’s privatization of Medicaid and promised to “make this right.” She proposed an increase in funding for K-12 education.
Last week, Reynolds made a stop at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs to tout one part of her vision for the state: jobs training for skilled trades.
Future Ready Iowa aims to make sure 70 percent of Iowa workers have training or education beyond high school by 2025.
In an interview with The World-Herald, Reynolds said western Iowa should particularly benefit from her new rural initiative, Empower Rural Iowa, headed by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. She’s requesting funds to expand high-speed Internet around the state.
Housing, mental health services and jobs training will also be key, she said.
“We want to make sure we’re unleashing opportunities in every corner of the state. We want to make sure our rural communities are vibrant,” she said.
When asked about the area’s biggest challenge, Reynolds said: “Getting people the skills and matching them up with a job.” She pointed to Thomas Jefferson High School’s new TradeWorks Academy as an example.
“We know what we need to do,” she said.
And she addressed the embattled Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has faced increasing criticism from his own party for his positive comments about white supremacy. He narrowly won re-election in November, and House Republicans stripped him of his committee assignments. Three Republican challengers have announced they are running.
“He needs to decide if he wants to serve the people and the values of his district or if he wants to do something else,” she said. “I think this last election was a clear indication that they’re not happy with what they’ve had, and so he needs to decide.”
Reynolds, the state’s first female governor, took a nontraditional path to the top office.
That path took her through a stint at college where she says she spent more time partying than studying; a battle with alcoholism that led to a DUI; then time as a county official, an effort to turn her life around and her ascension to the State Senate, the lieutenant governor’s office and now the governor’s mansion.
She’s tapping into her background to propose support for others who, like her, didn’t follow the high school-college-job path.
“What a country and state we live in,” she said in her speech Tuesday, “where a small-town girl from rural Iowa can become governor and have the opportunity to serve Iowans at the highest level.
“I hope that can be an inspiration to every waitress, every grocery checker, every overworked and stressed-out mom and the little girls who dare to dream: In Iowa, if you’re willing to work for it, those dreams can come true.”