Ladies and gentlemen of the House, thank you all for being here today. It is such an incredible honor and privilege to be up here today and I am truly humbled to serve as your Speaker in this historic chamber.
Before I go any further, there are some special people that I need to express my appreciation for. Amanda, Indee, Reagan, and Chancellor… It means a lot to have you all here today.
I want to thank each of you for the sacrifices that you make that allow me to serve the people of Iowa and House District 50. I also want to thank the House Republican majority for putting your faith in me to lead the caucus and tackle the issues that Iowans expect us to.
Majority Leader Windschitl, I am excited to serve alongside you and look forward to what we will accomplish this session.
Minority Leader Prichard, I am sure that Republicans and Democrats will have disagreements this session. But I want you to know that our door is open to bipartisan cooperation and we value input from your members.
This session, I want to show Iowans that we are not like our counterparts in Washington DC … that when there are opportunities to work together, we actually do work together. Much of the work we do here is bipartisan, but unfortunately, it’s the very few controversial issues that grab headlines. I want this body to demonstrate that when we come to Des Moines, we are here to address the issues that Iowans have brought to us.
Since we were last in session, I have had the opportunity to travel around the state and hear from Iowans of all backgrounds.
From New Hartford to Fort Dodge … Bettendorf to Malvern … Iowans are upbeat and pleased about the direction of our state. And who can blame them? As Iowans, we have a lot to be proud of.
Funding for our K-12 schools has never been higher, Iowa’s graduation rate tops the nation, and student achievement ranks among the best in the country. Our unemployment has held at record lows for months, consistently among the best in the nation, and wages for middle class Iowans are rising.
While so many of these things are positive, we can’t ignore the challenges that lie ahead.
Iowa’s economy is growing but employers are desperately in need of skilled workers. To ensure that growth continues, our job is twofold… First, we must help Iowans enter the workforce and make it easier for them to climb the ladder towards a rewarding and fulfilling career. Second, ensuring that Iowa’s businesses, regardless of size or geographic location, have a pipeline of skilled, talented workers to fill open jobs.
Future Ready Iowa is already making a difference … attacking the skills gap with the help of the Last Dollar Scholarship program. But that isn’t enough and we must continue our efforts, not only by building a skilled workforce, but by attracting and retaining top talent to the state. Workforce should be our number one priority this session.
One of the major issues that contributes to Iowa’s workforce shortage is child care, an area where I believe we can find bipartisan agreement. Oftentimes, a parent is forced out the workforce … not by choice, but out of necessity … because childcare is either unavailable or unaffordable. Unfortunately, at times, some Iowans are hesitant to accept a raise or promotion at work for fear of losing their childcare assistance … this is what most of us know as the cliff effect.
House Republicans want parents and families to grow and thrive without the need for government support.
Additionally, our Community Colleges can play a major role in ensuring a quality workforce by training the next generation of childcare providers.
This session, this chamber should actively work to decrease childcare costs for families, improve access to providers, and create an off-ramp for Iowans who want to advance in their careers and phase out their need for government assistance. This is an issue that impacts each of our districts where both parties in this chamber can work together to find solutions.
Another issue that often restricts our workforce is the lack of high-speed internet in some parts of the state. A reliable internet connection isn’t just to play video games or stream television. It’s critical for both employers and workers. Small businesses are increasingly dependent on quality broadband to receive orders, process transactions, and innovate. Additionally, the internet has made it possible for more Iowans to work from home when their employer is halfway across the state. In a tight labor market, increasing these opportunities may be a way to ease some of the pressure.
We need to be creative and purposeful to find new solutions. This session, we should work with stakeholders to spur growth and expand reliable, high-speed broadband service to underserved parts of our state.
Lastly, I’m not going to end this speech without talking about the state budget. Our reserve accounts are full … we have a healthy ending balance … we’ve made smart investments in priorities like K-12 schools, workforce training, and public safety … all while lessening the tax burden on hard-working Iowa families and small businesses.
Over the last nine years, House Republicans have changed the culture of budgeting in Des Moines. Crafting a budget and spending taxpayer money is hard work. But I have got to say, House Republicans often make it look easy, and I’m not just saying that as the former Appropriations Chair. I am incredibly proud of the discipline and restraint that this caucus has shown over the years.
As we move forward this session, we will once again pass a conservative budget that funds our priorities in a responsible way. House Republicans will continue to exemplify the strong leadership on the state budget that Iowans expect.
Over the next 100 days, maybe less if Representative Hein has his way, let’s make sure that we show Iowans that we are not like Washington DC. Less partisan games … Less political theater … More results for Iowans. Let’s strengthen Iowa’s workforce and improve our education system. Let’s make health care more affordable and pass a responsible budget that puts taxpayers first.
Representative Windschitl, Representative Prichard, members of the Iowa House … Let’s work together and move Iowa forward.