Gov. Terry E. Branstad today released the following statement after the close of the 2014 legislative session:
"In January, Lt. Governor Reynolds and I brought forth a simple message: "Iowa is Working.' In fact, Iowa Workforce Development recently reported that more Iowans are working than ever before in our state's history and our unemployment rate of 4.5 percent is 7th lowest in the nation.
"We are proud to see a number of our policy proposals approved by the Iowa Legislature. We are pleased the Legislature joined us in support of a robust Renewable Fuel Standard early in the session. In early April, the House and Senate passed our plan to repurpose public buildings to serve as centers of economic development and commerce.
"The centerpiece of our legislative plan, Home Base Iowa, won broad bipartisan support. In March, Greene County became the first Home Base Iowa Community. Iowa businesses have already set a goal of filling over 2,900 jobs in our state with veterans. The Home Base Iowa jobs plan passed by the Legislature shares our vision of offering veterans a superior quality of life as they transition from the military to civilian life.
"As we travel the state, business and community leaders told us of the high-quality jobs available, but the inability to fill them because applicants lacked the specific skills. The apprenticeship bill will triple funding for apprenticeship programs and ensure more Iowans are prepared to fill the high-quality jobs available across our state.
"For the second year in a row, our budget proposal called for a tuition freeze at our Regent universities. The Legislature's passage of our proposal to freeze tuition represents the first tuition freeze at Regent universities in consecutive years since 1980.
"After two years of advocating for legislation to strengthen Iowa's laws against bullying, we are disappointed the Senate again failed to take action to protect Iowa's students from bullying in our schools. Unfortunately, in the closing hours of the session, Iowa Senate Democrats blocked the measure to provide a safe and secure classroom. We will continue to fight for our children because every student deserves a learning environment that is conducive to educational growth and free of harassment and bullying.
"We launched the "Connect Every Iowan' initiative to increase access, adoption and use of broadband technology in Iowa. Technology is the great equalizer and we know for Iowa to continue to grow and prosper, we must have quality broadband technology all across Iowa. We are disappointed that Iowa Democrats chose to put election-year politics ahead of good public policy. We plan to continue working to bring high-speed Internet access to all corners of the state, not just to population and industrial centers.
"The budget we proposed in January spent 91 percent of authorized capacity, 8 percent below the requirement by law. Our budget balanced in a five-year budget projection. It balanced when we accounted for our commitment to fully fund the historic tax reduction passed last year and our unprecedented investment in Iowa schools.
"Over the coming weeks, we will carefully review the budget passed by the Legislature. After years of budget mismanagement, Iowans expect us to maintain responsible budgeting. Our careful planning has taken us from a projected billion dollar spending gap when we took office to a $700 million budget surplus today. Our priority -- and our responsibility -- is to ensure we adhere to sound budgeting principles that adequately address our state's needs without following the Washington, D.C., playbook of spending ourselves into a budget cliff. Simply put, we are committed to a budget that is in balance now and in the future.
"Despite the partisan tone of the session, we are pleased there was agreement on the majority of our legislative plan. Our plan continues growing Iowa's economy, attracts and matches military members with quality careers in our communities, offers more job-training opportunities for Iowans and holds tuition steady at our Regent universities. Politics should never get in the way of passing meaningful legislation for the taxpayers we serve."