Branstad, Reynolds hold townhall in WC

Governor Branstad has announced that the Iowa Communications Network will not be privatized at a Tuesday townhall meeting in Webster City.

Branstad was joined by Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds at City Hall as part of their annual tour to each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Branstad made the announcement following concerns expressed by Van Diest Medical Center CEO Bob Mason about the ICN being privatized. Branstad said the fiber-optics network is an important tool for hospitals, National Guard armories and schools.

“They went out for bids on the Iowa Communications Network and I think the consensus is it should not be sold,” Branstad said. “The recommendation from the board that oversees the ICN is unanimous that it not be sold.”

Mason noted that the ICN was first used in Webster City by a doctor to administer an electrocardiogram with assistance from Des Moines. At the time, Mason was on the Des Moines side of the communication.

Prior to public questions, Branstad spoke about the continuation of the “Our Opportunity, Our Iowa” condition of the state address given in January. He spoke about the ongoing goals that were presented during that address including reduction of property taxes, restoring leadership in education and making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation.

In order to accomplish these goals, Branstad said he had to restore sound budgeting practices to the state. Coming into office with a budget deficit that he projected at $900 million, Branstad said he has restored all of the money taken out of the cash reserve and economic emergency account and Iowa has a substantial ending balance.

“We’ve made great progress,” Branstad said. “Not that it’s perfect, because we still have a few little things that need to be worked out.”

Branstad was also aware that Webster City has seen higher unemployment with the loss of Electrolux. Even with the loss of a major employer, Branstad noted that companies including Facebook and Microsoft have built data centers in Iowa and there are still prospects for other large companies to build in Iowa.

“We will continue to work to try to replace those jobs and I know some progress has been made but we are going to continue to work and aggressively market Webster City,” Branstad said.

In order to attract those businesses, Branstad said the state has to stay competitive and will do so with property tax reforms that went into effect in July. For three decades, legislators have discussed reforming property taxes and Branstad said he was able to get reform passed in three years. However, in a split legislature, the reform was difficult to pass.

“I’m proud to say we were able to reach a significant compromise that will insure that all commercial and industrial property taxes will go down at least 10 percent over the next two years,” Branstad said.

Branstad said the reform should also result in a property tax reduction for homeowners. Another facet of bringing more business to Iowa for the Governor’s office is ensuring that the state has an educated workforce

“One of the ways that we have to make sure that Iowa remains competitive in this global economy, and really to build on the business climate that we put in place is to make sure we have a talented work force in the pipeline ready to meet the needs of business and industry,” Reynolds said.

Utilizing a career readiness program, the National Career Readiness Certificate with over 7,000 businesses on board, Reynolds said Iowans entering a job can be certified that they meet a certain level of math and reading for information, problem solving and more.