Governor Culver delivered his third Condition of the State speech yesterday morning. Typically, these speeches are full of optimism and bold initiatives that will make the state a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Culver’s speech offered very little of that today.
Missing from Governor Culver’s speech was the fulfillment of the promise of a big surprise for Iowa schools. This morning’s Des Moines Register headline read, “Culver plans school ‘surprise.’ TheIowaRepublican.com asked Culver’s Chief of Staff John Frew what the surprise was. Frew confirmed that the surprise was the Governor’s pledge to fully fund two percent allowable growth for public schools and his proposal to use $100 million from the state’s reserves to restore some of the recent cuts that schools were forced to make in the wake of the Governor’s ten percent across the board cut.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Chris Rants joined a number of other legislators in wondering what Culver’s big surprise was. Rants told TheIowaRepublican.com, “The surprise is that school districts will have a $400million gap instead of a $543 million gap. Is that’s the surprise? Or that the $250 property tax hike will continue permanently. Is that’s the surprise? Or is it that Culver and the Democrats will take money out of the reserves in a supplemental for this year and then have to pay it right back with money they don’t have the next year? That’s the surprise?”
While Governor Culver’s promise of a big surprise was underwhelming, he spent most of his speech defending his legislative priority from last year, the I-Jobs program. Culver took time to thank legislators who voted for the program, while also trying to justify the need to borrow nearly a billion dollars for the plan.
Culver also announced that he and Lt. Governor Patty Judge will embark on yet another I-Jobs tour to highlight the successes of the program. Culver already toured the state last year in an effort to drum up support for his proposal. One has to wonder why another tour is necessary if the program is such a raging success that is having an impact in all 99 counties.
Another portion of Governor Culver’s speech that is raising questions is his statement about making sure the men and women of the Iowa National have the necessary tools they need to complete their mission.
Culver said, “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!”
Culver makes it seem as if Iowa taxpayers are somehow responsible for funding our soldiers. Yet, when the National Guard is deployed, it is federally funded. While there are civilian state employees in the Department of Public Defense, Culver’s statement and his pledge to restore funding to the department will have little effect on our guardsmen’s deployment or the funding of their mission.
Maybe the biggest news from Culver’s condition of the state speech is the fact that the two biggest constituencies within the Democratic Party, labor unions and homosexual rights groups, saw their issues basically ignored. Culver has had a rocky relationship during his first term as governor with the unions, and he looks as if he wants to distance himself from the gay marriage lobby. Culver may find it difficult to be successful this fall is both of these groups are not fully invested in his re-election campaign.
Governor Culver’s speech provided little hope for Iowans who are out of work or struggling due to the current state of the economy. As is the case with any crisis or difficulty, the first step in righting the ship is acknowledging the problem. Once again, Culver continues to blame the downturn in the economy for the problems that out state is now facing rather than his out of control spending.
Culver also failed to give Iowans any reason to be optimistic. When reporting the condition of the state, Culver said, “I’m happy to report the condition of the state is resilient, because the people of Iowa are resilient.”
Governor, the people of Iowa are resilient because they have to be. You have given them no other choice.
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