For his final time, Governor Chet Culver addressed a joint session of the legislature to give the Condition of the State address this morning. The green tie, the same color as his campaign logo, which he chose to wear on this occasion, was symbolic as his speech was political in nature. Culver used his speech to paint his tenure as governor as productive and successful despite having to deal with economic difficulties and natural disasters.
When comparing today’s address by Culver to the ones that he delivered before, this speech was probably his best. Culver has proven himself to be a capable campaigner, and his speech was full of the same facts, figures, and spin that his 2010 campaign included.
Nobody is foolish enough to suggest that the four years that Culver has led the state have not been difficult. During his short time as governor, Culver has had to deal with numerous natural disasters. The floods of 2008 decimated some of the largest cities in the state. If that wasn’t bad enough, major tornadoes have ripped through the countryside destroying homes, taking lives, and leveling entire towns.
While there is nothing one can do to control Mother Nature, the economic downturn in the fall of 2008 was compounded by Culver and the Democrats spending spree the year before. Even though Culver likes to compare the current economic crisis to the Great Depression, he spent 95 percent of his time in office trying to convince Iowans that Iowa was in great fiscal shape. People knew better, yet he continued to cite little known websites that have given the state good grades during his term in office.
It was good to see the legislature and those in attendance give Culver a nice send off. Nobody doubts his love of the state, but Culver failed because he lacked faith in the people of Iowa to make difficult decisions. Even after experiencing a sizable defeat, Culver remains optimistic and upbeat. His successor, Terry Branstad, isn’t full of doom and gloom, but he is perceived as being willing to do whatever is necessary to right the state.
A clear example of this is state funded pre-school. In his speech, Culver noted that 23,000 more Iowa children are enrolled in pre-school thanks to state aide. Branstad, on the other hand, has targeted the program as a place that should be cut. Branstad isn’t opposed to pre-school, he just believes that assistance should only be given to those who have a financial need.
The differences between Culver and Branstad will be striking. Culver was a politician who seemed to latch on those things that he could sell on the campaign trail. Things like expanded pre-school, health care, I-Jobs projects, and other spending programs.
Branstad will be more of a policy wonk. His campaign was fueled by a number of proposals that would change commercial property taxes and corporate taxes to spur economic growth. He’s also shown a willingness to talk to Iowa businesses to find other ideas that the state could employ to help grow the economy in Iowa.
Culver never looked at Iowans as part of the solution, he always felt the need for government to provide the solution. Iowans understand that these are tough times. They understand that the recovery isn’t going to be painless. In Branstad, they now have a governor who will shoot them straight, focus on the things that ail us, and provide solutions that will help put this state back on the right track.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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