Gov. Chet Culver's Condition of the State Address as prepared for delivery on Jan. 12, 2010.
Speaker Murphy, Leader McCarthy; President Kibbe, Leader Gronstal; Leaders Paulsen and McKinley, and Members of the General Assembly – thank you for this opportunity to address this joint session of the Legislature.
I'm glad to be with you this morning for this extraordinary 80-day session. There's much to do, and no time to waste.
We face some real challenges. Ones we did not create, but ones we will overcome.
On the one hand, we continue to recover from natural disasters which are historic in their scope – the fourth worst in the nation's history.
Additionally, the ongoing national recession continues to affect every Iowa family, every Iowa business, and every aspect of our government.
But, as Iowans, we continue to address these challenges head-on! With resilience, optimism, determination and good old fashioned hard work.
We're also a people of great faith. A faith that teaches us, with God's help, all things are possible. With perseverance, we can endure, and that there's no challenge we can't overcome.
These are Iowa values we can all embrace, regardless of what part of the state we come from, our political views or our station in life.
You see, despite the obstacles that sometimes get in the way, Iowans continue to look forward, not backward. They believe, as I do, that the 21st Century will be "Iowa's Century."
For these reasons, I'm happy to report the Condition of the State is resilient, because the people of Iowa are resilient.
And, we have never stopped in our work for the "people," that we are honored to represent! For example, to address "both" of our statewide challenges, you passed, and I signed, I-JOBS, our statewide infrastructure and job creation initiative.
A "yes" vote on I-JOBS was a "yes" vote for flood victims. A "yes" vote on "I-JOBS was a vote to "rebuild our economy!" A "yes" on I-JOBS was a vote for "businesses" and "communities" as they struggle to get back on their feet!
So, I want to be very clear: I'm proud of the fact we've made the difficult decisions necessary to put our state on the road to recovery.
I'm proud of the fact that on my watch we've earned the highest possible bond rating for good fiscal management. I'm proud of the fact that we've balanced the budget three years in a row, without raising taxes!
And speaking of the budget, some politicians and armchair quarterbacks appear to be confused about our current budget situation.
Let's end their confusion! Here are the facts. Today, the budget is balanced. And it has been balanced every single day I've been Governor. Additionally, because of our cost savings initiatives, the budget today is "smaller" than it was on the day I took office.
But this didn't happen by accident. It happened because we made tough choices. We managed the budget responsibly and effectively.
Here are the ten steps "I've" taken to successfully manage our state through the economic downturn.
First, starting in 2008, I cut state spending 3 percent, froze state hiring, cut employee travel and reduced the state's health insurance costs by 20 million dollars.
Then, in 2009, I instituted a Lean Government initiative, further cut spending by 10 percent, and saved a half a billion dollars.
In addition, I cut my own salary, ordered state Department heads to do the same, and mandated that 3,500 "non-contract" employees in the executive branch take furlough days.
In addition, to further cut costs, I signed Executive Order Number 20, to improve efficiency, eliminate redundancies and identify wasteful spending. This order will save up to 140 Million dollars next year, and nearly a half billion dollars over the next five years.
Then, we took a huge step. We successfully negotiated a cost and job-savings agreement with two of our state's largest unions -the State Police Officers and AFSCME. Fortunately, their members agreed to share in the sacrifice for the greater good. So, I want to salute Danny Homan from AFSCME and Mark Bowlin [BOWL-in] of SPOC, and their members, for these historic measures.
This demonstrates: when Iowans come to the table in good faith, we can meet our challenges.
Finally, we've done all of these things to balance the budget, while protecting our priorities. In renewable energy, workforce development, early childhood education, health care for our kids, and public safety.
But there is another priority we must always find a way to fund.
As you know, in the coming months thirty-five hundred men and women of the Iowa National Guard will be deployed to Afghanistan.
As Commander in Chief of the Iowa Guard, it's my duty – both morally, and legally, to make sure these fighting Iowans are prepared for service. The 3,500 troops represent the largest single overseas deployment since World War II. So, we must give them every tool they need to complete their mission, and come home safely!
These brave men and women have "earned" our support! That's why I'm asking you to pass a supplemental appropriations bill early this session to restore some of the cuts to the Department of Public Defense.
No family better understands the importance of preparation and training than the Mills family of Altoona. Captain Tim Mills is now deployed in Iraq, and his wife Mary is with us today.
She's joined by Adjutant General Tim Orr, the leader of the Iowa Guard. So, please join me in thanking both of them for their sacrifice and service.
Now, I want to talk about next year's budget.
The budget I will submit at the end of the month will be balanced. And it will reflect our values as Iowans. Here are my top ten legislative and budget priorities for the 2010 session.
Number one: my top priority is "jobs."
Job creation and job retention are incredibly important. So, I'm asking you to fully fund community college job training, and to adequately fund the Department of Workforce Development. And, to create more ‘green collar jobs,' of the future, to fully fund the Iowa Power Fund.
In addition, to help create more jobs, invest further in our infrastructure, stimulate our economy, and continue flood recovery efforts, I look forward to working with you to best allocate the remaining $100 Million dollars of our I-JOBS funding.
Number two: I'm asking you to enact the remaining recommendations contained in my Government Efficiency Report. This will require legislative approval, and, it will allow us to save more than 200 million dollars next year, and a nearly billion dollars over the next five years!
These are common-sense ideas, which will allow us to: streamline state government operations, offer early retirement or a 4-day workweek to some state employees, implement "enterprise wide" strategic purchasing, reduce the size of our vehicle fleet, and eliminate redundant and unnecessary information technology services.
Number three: Finding efficiencies in state government is only the first step. A major reorganization of state government is the next step. So, I believe it's time to rethink the way state government does business. Let me be clear. We're talking about real ‘reform' for the 21st Century. Not just short-term cost savings. This will also move us closer to the kind of smarter, more efficient government that is our goal, and that taxpayers deserve! So, I look forward to getting this done this session.
Fourth: Last session, you passed and I signed recovery assistance that offered both immediate "and" long term help for Iowans affected by the floods. This included funding for the Rebuild Iowa Office, which, thanks to General Ron Dardis' leadership - as being a "national model" for effective flood recovery. So, I am asking you to fully fund the Rebuild Iowa Office this year.
Here's why: the office has helped us successfully secure over 3.6 "billion" dollars in state and federal money to help Iowans rebuild from the devastation of the storms. And, our efforts are working. For example, 3000 Iowans who lost their homes, are now guaranteed the funds necessary to buy a new one.
Fifth, I respectfully ask you to explore every option available, including transferring money from the road fund to ensure we adequately fund the Iowa State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety. We've done it before, and we can do it again!
Number six, as you know, in an effort to save taxpayer money, and increase transparency, we have recently completed a thorough review of all tax credits in Iowa. Last week, the Tax Credit Review Panel issued their report. I ask you to "act" on their recommendations, and do all you can to make these credits work exactly as intended.
Number seven: let's talk about honoring our most important responsibility as Iowans. That is, our duty as parents, and as shepherds of our children's future.
I am the proud parent of two wonderful children, Clare and John, who are here for their very first Condition of the State address. With them, is the First Lady of Iowa, Mari Culver.
You know, I'm proud of the fact, that working together, we've made a long-term investment in the health and education of "all" children. Just think: in the last three years, because of it, we have extended health insurance coverage to 52,000 kids. This investment now makes Iowa number one in the nation when it comes to insuring children. Together, we must continue this investment, and my budget will reflect this.
Additionally, we "must" also continue to expand access to early childhood education. To date, we have helped more than 12,000 kids in 175 school districts get a quality preschool education. So, my budget request will include the last installment of our four-year, $60 million dollar commitment to preschool.
Number eight: in order to ensure "all" Iowa children can compete in this new global economy, today I ask you to quickly pass legislation required to allow Iowa to compete for federal "Race To The Top" funds.
Iowa stands to receive up to $175 "Million" dollars. This will allow us be more innovative in the classroom, build the education infrastructure our students need, turn around under performing schools and allow more parental choice. Let's make sure Iowa doesn't miss out on this great opportunity for our students. Let's make sure Iowa remains on the cutting edge in education reform.
Number nine: I am asking you to pass legislation that requires school districts to spend down a portion of "their" cash reserves instead of shifting the burden to local property taxpayers.
Number ten: as Governor, and as a former teacher, my commitment to education transcends even our most difficult budget challenges. So, my budget fully funds two per cent allowable growth for our public schools.
And, on top of that, I will be asking you to dedicate at least 100 million dollars from the reserves to restore some of the recent cuts. This will be a real shot in the arm for some of our schools, especially in rural districts, which are already cash-strapped, with depleted reserves.
Additionally, I want us to do "all we can" to support our private colleges and Regents' Institutions! We have some of the best public universities in the country, and they have "earned" our support! And speaking of "best in the country," wasn't it a great year for the Iowa State Cyclones and Iowa Hawkeyes? These are some "very talented" student-athletes, and I congratulate them, their fans, and their coaches!
So, as you can see we have a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time this session. But as I've said, nothing we do here is more important than doing our part to help create and retain good paying, private sector jobs.
And speaking of jobs, now, I want to recognize and thank those of you who had the courage and foresight to stand up and join me in passing this jobs and infrastructure initiative last session.
Let's remember what the I-JOBS bill included, and why Iowans support it!
The I-JOBS bill is "fair" and equitable – every county in the state receives funds which local leaders can dedicate to high priority infrastructure projects – of their own choice.
And the process of getting the funds to each of our 99 counties is "transparent," and "merit-based." The "bi-partisan" board is comprised of Iowans who have volunteered their time and expertise with one goal in mind – to award I-JOBS funds according to the "letter" and "spirit" of the law! Because in Iowa, we "don't" use public funds to "build bridges to nowhere!"
Every Administration in the past 50 years -former Governors Hughes, Ray, Branstad and Vilsack – "all" used our Constitutional authority to bond for capital investments. But I-JOBS is an investment in Iowa's future, which is unprecedented in its scope.
And I-JOBS bonds will be paid back at an "historically" low interest rate – through gambling revenue – and "not" by raising taxes!
In the short term, I-JOBS is creating jobs. But in the long term, it will strengthen our economy, and allow us to build a stronger state.
We have made a major investment through I-JOBS, to modernize our entire state infrastructure, improve our: rail, road and bridge system, rebuild from the worst floods in Iowa history, improve water quality and protect our state from future disasters.
Additionally, it will allow us to invest in our renewable energy and telecommunications network.
Through I-JOBS, we've kept our promise to the men and women who've served in the military, by expanding and renovating the Iowa Veterans' Home in Marshalltown.
And here are some more examples of what I-JOBS means for Iowans. In Linn and Louisa Counties – some of our hardest hit areas – there are currently 54 I-JOBS projects underway, for a total investment of nearly $95 Million dollars.
In Butler County – where Parkersburg was hit by the F5 tornado, which leveled that community– there are 14 I-JOBS projects, at close to $3 Million dollars.
The list is long! As I've said, every single county will benefit from I-JOBS.
We have now approved more than 1400 projects, invested more than $530 Million dollars statewide.
These things "matter." Just ask the people of the flood-impacted communities of Charles City and Elkader, who will have new fire stations as a result. Or, the people of Fort Dodge and Perry, whose Community Colleges will be renovated.
Finally, we've used I-JOBS dollars to leverage additional federal funds. For example, the $100 million dollars we set aside for the University of Iowa's flood recovery efforts helped secure nearly "three-quarters-of-a-billion" dollars in additional federal disaster funds. This will help rebuild more than a dozen campus buildings destroyed by the floods, including Hancher Auditorium. I-JOBS that provided the necessary matching funds to secure these federal dollars!
So, we're literally rebuilding our state, and our economy at the same time. And, this focus on building for the long haul is now paying big dividends.
We now have the 8th fastest growing economy in the United States. We were recently recognized as being the 4th best place in America to do business - up from 9th - just one year ago. And Iowa now has the lowest cost of doing business of "any" of the fifty states.
And, just two weeks ago, according to MarketWatch, Des Moines was named the "Number one" city in America to do business.
These aren't just statistics – they are tools which will help us continue to attract good-paying jobs to Iowa, "and" encourage existing companies to expand!
As an example, I am proud of the fact that we have been able to bring to Iowa nearly 3,500 new good-paying jobs at companies like Google in Council Bluffs, Aviva in West Des Moines and IBM in Dubuque.
These exciting projects are just the tip of the iceberg: Since 2007, private industry has brought more than 7 billion dollars in new capital investment to Iowa.
Our business climate – even during this difficult recession – continues to outperform our neighbors, putting us on a clear path to recovery.
So, in an effort to make sure we continue to do all we can to keep Iowa moving forward, and prepare our state for future economic development and job growth, Lt. Governor Judge and I will be immediately embarking on a statewide "Iowa jobs tour."
And speaking of the future, let's talk about building the green-collar economy of tomorrow.
Today, there are more than "8000" new, "green" jobs in Iowa! And, through the Power Fund, we've now invested in 26 research and development projects, while leveraging more than $200 million dollars in private sector investment.
The Power Fund is allowing us to fast become the silicon prairie of the Midwest and the renewable energy capital of the United States. We are now generating 15 percent of all of our power from renewable sources. And, as a result, in just a few short years we will become one of the few states in America to be a net exporter of energy.
In closing, I believe we should never lose sight of the fact that everything we do here is about real people. They are counting on us everyday to help, especially now.
As I've said, the people of our state are resilient. Let me give you three very powerful examples of Iowans overcoming adversity.
Charlene Shurtz [SHIRTS] is one of too many in Cedar Rapids who lost everything in the floods. She had "six feet" of water in her home, and it was a "total" loss. But now, she is one of "3000" Iowans eligible for a home "buyout." This means soon, Charlene will be in her new home, where she belongs!
Cyndi Ecker, [ECK-er] a small business owner from Waverly, had her life change forever in June of 2008 when the floods destroyed her floral business. I'm happy to report, she's "back in business!" She is one of more than a thousand small business owners who benefited from the successful Jumpstart Iowa business program.
Finally, Melissa Paulsen. She was unexpectedly laid off from her job last year with no place to turn. However, last session you passed and I signed, an extension of unemployment benefits for displaced workers who enroll in job retraining. The extension of these benefits is now allowing her to pay her bills, stay in school and complete her retraining. She will be graduating in May!
Charlene, Cyndi, and Melissa are with us today. Will you please stand and be recognized?
What have we learned from these resilient Iowans? We've learned that the spirit of Iowans is unbroken, regardless of the adversity we may face!
So, as we enter a new decade, approach a new session and craft a new budget, we face fundamental choices, in spite of "some" real challenges which remain.
Will we move this state forward by reforming and reorganizing government?
Will we continue to be a leader in renewable energy, and job creation, which will move us along the path to recovery?
Will we continue to make investments in our kids, and adequately fund education at all levels?
Will we "fight" for the men and women who wear the uniform?
Finally, will we finish our work and overcome the devastation from the floods and tornadoes, and rebuild Iowa?
Well, I believe history tells us time and time again that the Iowa way, and the American way, is that when we are faced with great challenges, we meet them with bold, decisive action!
So, this is not the time for fear and inaction. Instead, let's finish what we started, unafraid of tomorrow "and" inspired by its possibility! I will do my part!
To the House and Senate leadership, and to all of you, thank you for this opportunity to be here today. Good luck in the days ahead, and I look forward to working with you.
Together, let's embrace the future, making this "Iowa's Century" – with an unwavering faith that our best days are ahead of us!
May God continue to bless the people of the Great State of Iowa.