Governor Kim Reynolds stopped by the Jefferson County Fair late Friday afternoon and spoke with locals while touring the livestock barns and fairgrounds. After making the rounds, Governor Reynolds spoke to The Ledger.
Q: Talking with a local internet Service Provider, they expressed frustration with both Democrats and Republicans giving them what they feel is just lip service about making state grants available to expand broadband in rural communities such as Fairfield. Do you have any plans to help them receive the funding they need to improve internet service in counties like Jefferson?
Reynolds: I actually put it in my budget this year and I got it through the legislature. I didn?t get as much as I put in my budget, I think I put 2.6 million in for the broadband. We had the policy in place, Connect Every Acre, but there wasn?t adequate funding there and really we need to do more. It?s really important if we want young people to stay in rural Iowa, they have to be able to connect to the internet. It?s an expectation and it?s really about public safety, public health, education; it?s like the interstate system, it?s that critical. Another reason I felt it was important to put money in it this year, and it was a tough budget year, I was hoping that if I put some money in my budget than I could draw down some federal funds and be able to help even more people. We did get that done and we need to do more.
I?m going to be announcing here shortly, so I can kind of give you the scoop, the Governor?s Empower Rule Iowa Initiative and a big part of that is going to be broadband connectivity.
Q: We have CAT money to build and promote beautiful theaters like our Sondheim Center for Performing Arts, but often these buildings need additional funding to finance their day-to-day operations. What is your position on helping these structures with funding to help run the place?
Reynolds: There is money, it?s a public/private partnership and part of the CAT money and the Vision Iowa funding is ?last dollar in? which means the communities need to be invested and have a good business plan and are able to sustain it. We need to be able to and the way I?m doing that is to reduce taxes so they have more money and can invest it in their business.
I?m proud that we were able to get tax reform done this year and it was really targeted for small businesses so I think helping Iowans keep more of their hard-earned money. I don?t think repealing the taxes is the way to go because that?s going to raise taxes on the very people who are utilizing that facility and small businesses that are trying to grow and expand and provide opportunities for the community.
Q: Local business owners are complaining about a mostly unqualified hiring pool. How do we get people prepared for the jobs we need filled?
Reynolds: That is my No. 1 priority and it has been this legislative session. Future Ready Iowa is what it?s called and it?s really about not only helping our youth, but helping young kids see the many opportunities that exist and the many pathways to a great career but it?s really about helping unemployed and underemployed get the skills that they need to fill the jobs. Yesterday there were 66,000 job openings in Iowa, so there?s a lot of opportunities out there, we just need to help with a support system and identify where these individuals are at and then we?re willing to invest in them and help them take care of their families. It?s the No. 1 barrier in the state to economic growth but I see that as opportunity for Iowans. We took all of the technical and vocational jobs out of the high schools and now we are bringing back apprenticeships so they can graduate and go right into a job making $50,000-$60,000 with benefits and no debt whatsoever.
Q: How do we get people with jobs a livable income since many people are taking on second jobs?
Reynolds: We?re willing to work with people. I was 57 when I finally got my college degree from Iowa State University and it?s never too late to chase your dreams or change careers.
We have programs that will help students, but it?s tied to high-demand jobs because we want to make sure we are preparing you for the jobs that exist and that we can help you have a great career.