Years ago, Gov. Kim Reynolds worked as a cashier at Hy-Vee on nights and weekends in order to make ends meet for her family. Reynolds was back at Hy-Vee Thursday to connect with locals, but she wasn’t there to bag groceries. Making a stop in Newton on her “Unleashing Opportunity” tour, she told the crowd that Iowa’s success is easy to see if you look at the metrics.
“The condition of our state is strong,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds was introduced by Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Altoona, who told the audience it was Reynolds’ drive that enabled her to raise a family while pursuing her ambitions. Nunn also promised voters legislators are hard at work sorting out the state’s finances and will pass an education budget within the first 30 days of the session. Nunn also praised the recent passage of a water quality bill, something Reynolds has long said is a top priority for her as she took control of the state last year. Despite objections from some lawmakers who say the bill doesn’t have enough solutions, Nunn said the bill represents opening a dialog on water quality, rather than the final word.
“This is the beginning of the conversation, with the governor we have the opportunity to go far,” Nunn said.
When Reynolds took the podium she reminisced about working at Hy-Vee, where she was once a cashier with three young children. Working nights and weekends meant she and her husband Kevin had to coordinate child care carefully as they strived to make ends meet. Working part-time at the grocery store, Reynolds said she learned it’s never too late to make a difference. Serving as Iowa’s lieutenant governor, Reynolds was 57 years old when she earned her bachelor’s degree. Reynolds said she wants to create a new grant program for people like herself, who started a four-year degree program but never finished.
“Even though we had to put them on hold we didn’t want to give up on that dream,” Reynolds said.
On Thursday, she championed Iowa’s network of community colleges and talked about the challenges of going back to school as an adult. Community colleges are important, Reynolds said, noting several partnerships between local businesses and community colleges to fill positions in Iowa’s skilled trades industry.
“Our community colleges are extremely important,” Reynolds said. “I’m really excited about showing our kids there are many pathways to a great future.”
Promising voters “there’s nothing more important than investing in our children” Reynolds touted a $735 million investment in K-12 education since 2011, which she says adds up to $3.3 billion, claiming only three other states have funded education at a higher level. Still, Reynolds stressed that making education a priority means more than just writing a big check.
“We have to be careful we don’t fall in the trap of measuring the quality of our education by the amount of money we pour into it,” Reynolds said.
As the state legislative session gets rolling this month, many Republicans in the legislature have said they’d like to reform the state’s tax code and planned to look to Congress, which recently passed similar legislation on the federal level, for guidance. Reynolds said she’s happy to see tax reform on the agenda, promising that “every Iowan” will see their taxes go down, and Iowans with children will see even deeper cuts. To enact tax reform she said the state needs to move away from allowing Iowans to claim their federal taxes on their state taxes to make sure Iowans don’t see a tax increase. These changes will position Iowa for the future, which looks bright Reynolds said. Iowans live in the third best-managed state in the nation, she said.
“I’m really optimistic about the future and the capacity that exists in our state,” Reynolds said.
Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg also addressed the audience, promising voters the state’s economy is on the right track. Gregg said Iowans can be proud unemployment in the state is the lowest it’s been in the last 17 years, at 2.8 percent. That number represents the fifth lowest unemployment nationwide, part of the reason why Iowa ranks as the number one state of middle-class families, Gregg said.
“The governor is leading us in the right direction, but you don’t have to take my word for it, the numbers support it,” Gregg said.
Reynolds’ strong leadership has helped the state grow, Gregg said as he read a list of companies that have increased their hiring during her administration. One of the companies on the list was TPI, the largest employer in Jasper County. The 351 jobs that TPI plans to add as they transition into building fiberglass bus bodies is a sign that the state’s economy is booming, Gregg said.
Speaking at Newton’s Hy-Vee store may have represented a homecoming for Reynolds, and Gregg reminded voters that both he and the governor are rural Iowans, something he’s proud of. The governor plans to improve internet access for Iowans living in rural areas of the state, in part to help businesses in the area grow, but also because it’s an important service that young Iowans expect before they’d consider relocating.
“The governor and I are both products of rural Iowa, it holds a very special place in our hearts,” Gregg said.
On Thursday Reynolds looked back to her time at Hy-Vee and remembered it fondly. Her children have also worked for the grocer, one of the state’s largest employers, and Reynolds said the job was a good opportunity, but what she missed the most about Hy-Vee were the people.
“I think the people, I’m a people person, you get to see a lot of people as you’re checking out their groceries,”,” Reynolds said. “It’s very reflective of the state.”
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org