Branstad And Reynolds Hold Townhall Meeting
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The 99 county tour made famous by Senator Chuck Grassley, has more than just the Senator making the trek. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds work every year at accomplishing that goal, and Friday was Mahaska’s turn on that tour.
The Governor and Lt. Governor gave attendees an update on the past year’s legislative session and answered questions from the audience.
On the legislative session, Branstad said the goal “was to set a very focused agenda to reduce property taxes, improve education and help Iowa become the healthiest state in the nation”.
Branstad admitted those were very “ambitious goals” and did compromise along the way in order to see “action on all of those subjects this year. I think one of the most successful sessions in Iowa history and also kept the states financial house in order.”
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds added that the town halls are “a great opportunity to interact with Iowans”.
Looking towards the future, Governor Branstad said that with the downsizing of the military, “we want to be very welcoming to the veterans, encouraging them to move back to Iowa”.
Branstad said that in addition to making sure there are good jobs available for returning veterans, they are also looking into other incentives that may be beneficial to this group.
He also added that they are looking into ways to help reduce “the income tax burden” after making significant progress on property taxes. “That’s another thing we can do to make Iowa more competitive.”
Working off of low unemployment and property tax relief, Branstad has worked closely with sister states in China and now Kosovo.
Since early on, during Branstad’s first tenure in the governor’s office, he has built a relationship with, who is now China’s president, Xi Jinping.
In January of 2012, Branstad and Reynolds welcomed, then Vice-President, Xi Jinping to Iowa with a formal dinner.
Branstad first met with Xi in the governor’s formal office in 1985, when Xi was a local party leader traveling on an exchange program through the Iowa Sister States program.
Recently, the United States has had some tension, in particular with the handling of Edward Snowden and his flight from Hong Kong.
I asked Governor Branstad how much impact, if any, that has had upon their relationship, and how it may impact Iowa.
“He was so impressed with the friendliness and hospitality and how well he was treated in Iowa that he now considers us old friends. He trusts us.”
Branstad went on to highlight the trade between Iowa and China, especially in crops such as soybeans and now corn and pork as well. Branstad points towards the possible acquisition of Smithfield by a Chinese company “so they can have a ready, reliable source of pork.”
“We think having this positive relationship with the leader of China,” Branstad added, “is beneficial to the state of Iowa.” The two leaders have had a working relationship for 30 years now, “and I’m hopeful in the future can be even better.”
Reynolds added that the relationship also helps Iowa companies to build a relationship in China and to play in the global economy because of that relationship.
Kosovo is going to soon become another sister state with Iowa. The relationship started informally some time ago with the Iowa National Guard, during their peacekeeping missions to the region since 2003.
“I think especially in the areas of agriculture, education, and culture there can be a lot of wonderful exchange opportunities,” Branstad said of the possible benefits of the agreement.
When focusing on how it could impact Oskaloosa and Mahaska county, much like any other town in Iowa, “You could see students come to William Penn here… we think obviously more trade,” but the Governor adds it could take many years for that trade benefit to become more apparent, but he points towards the success he’s had with China as a goal with Kosovo as well.
Branstad will travel to the Republic of Kosovo in the first part of July to sign the agreement. “This is the youngest country in Europe,” Branstad said of the country formed out of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. “I think having this kind of friendly relationship in a global economy is beneficial to all the citizens in Oskaloosa and all across Iowa.”
Their president and prime minister have made trips to Iowa already, and Branstad will return the favor while following up potential economic leads in Germany and Switzerland.