RECAP: Iowa State of the State
On January 10, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds gave her state of the state address for the year 2023. In this address, she gave focused on the topics of education, healthcare, and the state’s economy.
While talking about education, Governor Reynolds spoke passionately about making sure that children received the best education possible, and made it clear that making this happen was not about the amount of funding the schools get. Rather, it is about the quality of the education received. She also made it clear that she wants there to be no judgment for a family’s choice to send their child to a public or private school.
One of the first pieces of legislation Governor Reynolds announced for this upcoming session is called the School Choice bill. This bill would create education savings accounts for families that choose to send their children to private schools. The bill would also give funding to these accounts, starting families off with $7,598, which is the same amount that the state provides per student in the public school system. Reynolds made it clear that this would be a phased plan, starting with families with the lowest income, and would be available to all families in 3 years.
Governor Reynolds also spoke about improving schools that are consistently falling in the bottom 5% in subjects like reading and math. This effort would come through “tailored support” from the state’s Department of Education. It would also include putting experts on the ground to talk to teachers and observe classes so that they can make suggestions for best teaching and curriculum practices.
The Governor’s final focus regarding education involved support for teachers and administrators. She spoke of her hopes that the state’s Teachers Apprenticeship program will expand to 1,000 teachers in the year 2023. She also talked about opening up $100 million earmarked for school funding so that schools can raise the wages of their teachers. Reynolds ended her conversation by saying how important it is to reward teachers for all of their time and effort in the classroom.
Governor Reynolds spoke of numerous ways to improve the state’s healthcare system. her first area of focus was to protect the lives of children and mothers who experienced unexpected pregnancies. This started with a call to the state’s legislative body to expand the funding for their Moms program, which gives support to mothers who are experiencing unexpected pregnancies all across the state. Governor Reynolds said that part of this support would go towards maximizing paternal involvement both during the pregnancy and after. She said that this greatly increases the chances that the mother will receive prenatal care and experience a healthy birth. She also says that this has a high chance of reducing behavioral issues in the child throughout their early years. The extra funding in this area would allow for non-profit grants for at-risk fathers and would deliver opportunities for school-aged males to attend mentorship programs.
Governor Reynolds’ second focus in her talk about healthcare surrounded increasing support for the healthcare system as a whole. Her first objective is to increase funding for the Healthcare Apprenticeship program. Currently, the funding for this program sits at $3 million. Reynolds called for this funding to be increased by five times that amount, to $15 million. She also spoke about opening more pathways and opportunities for nurses, along with more apprenticeships for those going into emergency medical services, mental and behavioral health, and direct support professionals. Governor Reynolds also talked about Iowa’s need to step up to protect its healthcare system against a rapidly changing legal environment by introducing new tort reform. The goal of this reform would be to avoid the closure of things like OB-GYN clinics and other healthcare services across the state.
Governor Reynolds concluded her discussion on healthcare by speaking about the need to get fentanyl under control. She began by talking about the 34% increase in overdoses across the state in the past year, and that the number of overdoses in those under the age of 25 has doubled. According to the Governor, elicit fentanyl was responsible for 83% of those overdoses, up from 31% five years ago. To help avoid the continuation of this trend, Reynolds announced a public awareness campaign, to be launched immediately, that would give parents information on the dangers of fentanyl and how to avoid overdoses caused by the drug. She also called on the state legislature to increase penalties for those that manufacture or distribute the drug. Her final proposal on the topic of healthcare was to allow first responders the ability to enter lock zones so that they can acquire the resources to reverse fentanyl overdoses.
Governor Reynolds made the state’s economy her final point of focus during this address. Her main goal when it comes to the economy is to make things simpler for businesses and entrepreneurs. Her first proposal to make this happen included eliminating over half of the state’s executive cabinet members. Currently, the number of cabinet members sits at 37. Her goal is to reduce that number to 16. The Governor hopes that by doing so, they will be able to streamline many of the processes that are currently keeping businesses and entrepreneurs held up in red tape. She also is looking to eliminate rules currently in place that are reducing economic progress and efficiency. To do this, she has signed an executive order, putting a halt to new rulemaking, and ordering all relevant agencies to sift through each rule to determine if they are worth the “economic cost”. One final message that Governor Reynolds gave in this address is that Iowa is set to have one of the lowest tax rates in the country, at 3.9%, and that no one in the state would be paying taxes on their retirement income.