Local lawmakers generally pleased with Branstad plans

Area lawmakers from both major political parties said they generally liked what they heard when Gov. Terry Branstad outlined his proposals during the Condition of the State Address Tuesday morning.

Democratic lawmakers, however, said the Republican governor did not talk about aid to public schools or funding for infrastructure.

State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, was among a handful of senators who escorted Branstad to and from the chamber of the House of Representatives, where the annual speech is delivered.

”Upon our return to his office, I said ‘Governor, we’re in a heap of trouble. I agreed with nearly everything you said,”’ Beall said.

Beall and state representatives Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, and Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, gave Branstad high marks for his emphasis on programs to benefit veterans.

”I was glad to hear of the governor’s focus on veterans and the Home Base Iowa initiative,” Shaw said. ”With the federal government cutting health benefits and retired pay to our veterans, it is great to know that Iowans take care of their veterans.”

The Home Base Iowa proposal would fully exempt military pensions from state income taxes and would direct various occupational licensing boards to give veterans credit for their military experience when applying for a license. It’s intended to help attract veterans to the state.

Miller said she would like to add something to Branstad’s proposal that would put more emphasis on recruiting veterans who are minorities.

”I think that Iowa needs to be seen as being friendly to minorities,” she said. ”This state has a wealth of things to offer minorities who would come to Iowa if they felt it was friendly to them.”

Miller said she hasn’t decided on the specifics of any amendments she’ll offer to the Home Base Iowa plan.

She does, however, have firsthand experience with moving to Iowa after a military career. She and her late husband, Dr. Ed Miller, came to Fort Dodge after he retired from the Air Force.

Miller and state Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, said they are interested in Branstad’s plan to rejuvenate former school buildings in rural areas with the aid of tax credits. Behn said he’s waiting to hear the specifics of the governor’s plan.

”I thought he did a great job,” Behn said. ”I think it was one of his best speeches. Overall, I was really happy with it.”

Beall said he supports the governor’s Home Base Iowa plan, his anti-bullying proposal and his request that the legislature pass a resolution supporting a strong federal Renewable Fuels Standard. Beall said he’s seeking bipartisan co-sponsors for a Renewable Fuels Standard resolution he led debate on last year. That resolution was passed unanimously by the Senate, but wasn’t acted on by the House.

Beall said Branstad didn’t say anything about allowable growth in funding for public schools or ways to finance infrastructure improvements.

Miller said she questions the job numbers Branstad used in his speech.

”I’m not sure about those job figures,” she said. ”They’re kind of all over the board.”

State Rep. Rob Bacon, R-Slater, did not reply to a request for comment on the governor’s speech.