Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds visited Clarke County via her Town Hall tour on November 3. An Osceola, Iowa native, Lt. Governor Reynolds gave opening remarks about her passion for helping her home community as well as what she and Governor Brandstad’s administration have accomplished in regards to education, workforce development, and Iowa’s health and wellness initiatives. She described the administration’s focus on Iowa infrastructure and business growth before taking questions from the audience.
While many familiar questions were brought up, there were positive discussions about their stance on eminent domain as it pertains specifically to Clarke County. The subject of privatizing Medicaid was brought up and the Lt. Governor provided additional insight on how it could impact providers like Clarke County Hospital and patients throughout Osceola and surrounding communities. And finally, school budgets and recent education initiatives lead into how Iowans can tie their education focus into filling vacant jobs throughout Southern Iowa and beyond as well as a good discussion on generating additional revenue to help fund Iowa schools.
Overall, it was a good, informative meeting. There were some tough questions as well as some thorough answers, and a lot of helpful information about our governmental wins and opportunities that directly affect Osceola and Clarke County as a whole.
Please take a moment to read through the entire transcript of the Town Hall Meeting, and follow along with the recording of her visit.
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Town Hall Transcript – November 3, 2015:
Lt. Gov Reynolds – “Got two left, I think, this year and to hit my two counties but they’re Washington and Carroll so we hope that in the next two to three weeks I’ll get that done. But it’s by far honestly the favorite thing that I get to do as Lt Governor because it’s really important to get outside of Des Moines, to travel the state and either do a town hall, or to meet with business and industry or to go visit a school district, see what are the school districts that are implementing the teacher leadership and compensation structure program. Just to really get out in the state. And so what we typically do…So it’s nice to be back home and I’m actually doing some town halls through south central Iowa today. I’m doing Osceola then I’m going to go to Chariton and from Chariton am going to head up to Pella and then head back home and then I think I’ve got one more event tonight. I started out this morning with this councilors association. They had been meeting up at Prairie Meadows and that room was packed and they said that about half the councilors were there so they had a really good turnout. So started there this morning, so what I usually do during the town halls is just kind of give you an update of what we’re working on, what the state looked like when we took office where we believe it’s at today and then most importantly I’ll just open it up and hear from you. What you think we need to be doing to continue moving Iowa forward, things we’re doing right, things we’re not doing right, if you’ve got some questions I certainly will try to answer them. If not Bob is back there taking notes and we will get the answer back to you if am not able to provide that today. Bob House is my new chief advisor I think he’s been on board for … ”
Bob House- “five weeks”
Lt. Gov Reynolds – “five weeks, okay so he’s still standing! So anyway I appreciate him being with me and travelling with me and taking on that role. I think it’s always important when you’re traveling across the state to just remember what the state was facing when we took office. Really when we were running for office, Iowa we were just coming out of the recession and we were fortunate, we were not at the place where a lot of other states were at. But the state was facing a $900m projected short fall, unemployment was over 6%, they’d just implemented a 10% across the board cut which had really impacted for instance like Clarke and Murray school districts to the tune of about $775,000 cut they were anticipating that they were not going to get because of the across the board cut. One of the things that we talked about when we were running for government/ running for office was bringing stability and predictability back to the state government. And that we wanted to end the bad budgeting practices, build back up the cash emergency and economic emergency fund and really grow the economy and make sure that our kids have the best education possible, and look for ways that we can reduce the size and scope of government. So one of the things that we knew we had to do right away was, unlike what we’re seeing at the federal government with a little over $18 trillion dollars of debt. We knew that in Iowa we needed to live within our means that we don’t spend more than we take in and that’s the philosophy that we wanted to bring to the state finances. So relatively quickly, working with the state legislature and I think that’s always important to point out, that really when you work together you can accomplish things and you can put Iowa and Iowans first and have some significant wins when you come at it from that perspective. So we were able to balance the budget, we turned a deficit into a surplus, we did refill the economic and emergency cash reserve funds. The first thing that we did which I think has been really instrumental in allowing us to be where we’re at today is we put in place a two year budget, a five-year projected budget so that we could see what the programs that we were implementing what that cost was going to be in year 2,3,4 and 5. Because of the decisions that were made early on, we were able in 2013 then to pass the largest tax cut in the history of the state of Iowa, it was about a $4.4bn decrease commercial property tax decrease over 10 years. We were able to put in place targeted educational funding or spending that really implementing the teacher leadership and compensation program and what that amounts to over three years is about $150m annually that will roll into the school formula, and really kind of change the way and provide educators the tools they need to be successful. The other thing that we were able to get passed as we were looking at the accountable care act, we were able to work together with both the House and the Senate to get a waiver from DHS from the federal government that allowed us to pass the health and wellness plan. For us it was really important for Iowans to have some skin in the game because you make different choices when you’re participating in the program. It was really based on healthy outcomes. By having some skin in the game, by making sure that people get a health risk assessment, an annual physical then we can start to get ahead of some of the chronic diseases sooner rather than later. And we knew that if we were going to really truly control health care cost that it needed to be done in a manner that got Iowans healthier. I’m proud to say that today we have more Iowans covered than at any other time in the state history. One of the things that I think was really instrumental in providing that stability and predictability from the state finance perspective is it really gave business and industry the certainty that they needed and they’re looking for when they’re making decisions about either locating, investing or expanding in the state of Iowa. And because of the certainty that was put in place we’ve seen over $12bn of private capital investment in the state of Iowa. And when I talk about that I think it’s important to really reflect off that $12bn; 80% of that’s been from existing companies that have already chosen to locate and invest in Iowa, that have the confidence to go ahead and grow and expand. With that growth we’ve seen almost 196,000 new jobs created, our goal is 200,000 so we’re narrowing in on what we thought was a pretty ambitious goal over five years. Today I’m proud to say that unemployment is at 3.6% statewide, we’re at the 6th lowest in the nation and I know we can continue to bring that down. Here in Clarke County since 2011 I think at that time Clarke County’s unemployment was at 9.3% and today its 3.6% and that is a 61% drop since taking office so that’s something I think that we can feel really proud of and we know that we still need to continue, there’re people that are underemployed and unemployed so we’re continually looking for ways that we can get Iowans the skills that they need to be successful, to really fill the jobs that are open right now, today. Almost every single business that I’ve been in since travelling the state of Iowa, they have existing openings right now and it really is a lack of finding employees that have the skills that they need that’s preventing them from continuing to grow. It’s exciting when they tell you that they’ve been in growth mode over the past two to three years and they still project that moving forward. But again the two biggest barriers that we hear are unemployment and housing, and I know that’s nothing new to anybody here that’s something that we’re facing also. We’ve also made historic record investments in education we have we’re up as far as investment into education over 35% versus the previous administration. In 2011 we appropriated $2.59bn into education and this last fiscal year we have over $3b of investment into education out of a $7bn budget. I think what we’ve tried to do is to make sure that that investment goes into targeted programs like the teacher leadership and compensation program, like the early literacy program or STEM which is science, technology, engineering and Math and that’s a program that I’m very very involved in. So that’s real dollars for Clarke county because what that amounts to is today we are spending more than $2.9m more in Clarke County than at the time that they experienced the 10% across the board cut. So we know that we’re not going to turn the ship overnight but we’re starting to see some results from some of the programs that we’re putting in place and we need to continue to build on that foundation. Most importantly so that our students have the skills that they need to compete in a very global knowledge-based economy. As well as making sure that Iowa remains animated and competitive in that same global economy. The other things that we’ve invested in since taking office is infrastructure, we’ve kind of built on the Vatel 2.0 study which was done from the economic development authority, I know Debbie our economic development director has been down here several times. She also travels the state and meets with Iowans and business and industry and economic development leaders so we can collectively put in place an environment that is conducive to growth. But two things that I’ve said that we need to really address if we are to continue to grow and go to the next level that really Iowa is capable of and that was infrastructure. And that’s not really roads and bridges but was also capacity so we ….. is that a duck quack?
Lt. Gov Reynolds- “I’m home. That’s perfect”
Audience- “It gets your attention”
Lt. Gov Reynolds- “I know, I love it. So we had a short fall in roads and bridges you’re already aware of that. But another piece that we’re putting in place that I’m really excited about and you’ll hear more about it. It’s a program from the department of transportation and it’s a freight optimization study. And really what that’s looking at is how we move our commodities and products in and out of the state. It’s just another tool in the tool box to make us competitive by figuring out where that supply chain can be, how we can do the intermodal, how we really work to bring efficiencies to business in the industry as we continue to move products in and out of the state so I’m really excited about that. They’ve run the numbers and now they’re working with actual businesses to get the actual numbers, so that they talk to them on different ways that they can provide efficiencies that will reduce their costs at moving their products in and out of the state. The other program that we passed last year was the connect every acre and that’s broadband expansion, right now there’s a tax deduction, we got the language in place but we didn’t get an appropriation so hopefully we will be utilizing federal dollars possibly in appropriation probably next year. We can look for ways that we can expand broad band capacity in every single corner of the state because there’s a lot of opportunity for Iowans and entrepreneurs and startup companies to really market their product in rural Iowa all around the world if we have the internet capacity, the broadband capacity to do that. In addition as we talk about water quality with precision farming that was kind of the impetus to go to connect every acre. A lot of the areas especially in south west Iowa they did not have the capacity they needed to utilize the equipment and for the tractors to do the precision farming so we can drop just the amount of fertilizer that we need to get the results that we’re looking for. Also I talked about making sure that we had a skilled workforce, an initiative that we just launched a few weeks ago is a ‘Future Ready Iowa’, and it’s a collaborative effort with schools and community colleges and business and industry, job training programs so that we can start to align those efforts. We got a lot of different programs that were putting a little money here and a little money there and we really want to make it a seamless pipeline, that we can work with students so they can see first of all what the various jobs are available in communities all across the state of Iowa, what that career pathway looks like. So here’s the job I’m interested in, here’s the education you need whether certification two year, four year job training whatever that may look like. Here’s the anticipated return on investment by taking those classes. Oh by the way here’s about four or five businesses that are ready to hire you tomorrow or whenever you complete whatever that education requirement is necessary. The goal with Future Ready Iowa really is to have 70% of Iowa’s workforce by 2025 have either job training or education, some type of education beyond high school. So we’re looking at dashboard… looking ways that we can look at various sectors, strategies and really give students, sooner rather than later, the opportunities that are available within the state. So as I wrap up I just want to say you guys are doing a lot of things right, you’re a home-based Iowa community, you’re a connected community, and you’re a mainstream community. There’re individuals in this community and in this county that have come together and continued to look for ways … Bill, you’ve done an excellent job with the development corporation. But anyway it’s this can do attitude and I’ve seen it since we moved here in 1990, just the willingness of the people from this community to do whatever it takes to survive and be successful, continue to keep our young people here as well as attracting new people to our community. So thank you for being here this morning, thank you for giving me the honor of serving as Lt Governor of Iowa. I love it, I take it very seriously and we’re working hard every single day to continue to make Iowa a great place to live, work and raise a family. So with that I think we will open up for questions”.
Question 1- “I see that the governor is in support of eminent domain for the pipeline expansion. Will that relate to our problems down here as far as our water”?
Lt. Gov Reynolds: “You know what he said in the press conference yesterday was that, this is the way he phrased that. First of all it’s a decision of the utility board and that legislation was passed in 2006 and he truly believes that they’re the ones that need to make the decision. So that was the comment he said eminent domain needs to be used very judiciously and sparingly and it should be for the public good. And so I think he thinks that serves a purpose, there’s a need but you need to make sure it is for the public good. And that we’re not taking private land for commercial use I think it’s probably what. And the governor has said, and I agree with this too that the legislation that was passed in 2006 was good legislation. It protected both land owners but allowed for the use of eminent domain for the public good and I think it served its purpose”.
Question 2: “Well you know that the legislation that was passed last year was very detrimental to Clarke County, and I know you’re a proponent of ours and I understand that. But I guess the community needs to know where we’re going because we’re just kind of battling here trying to move forward”.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: “Well first of all the community needs to know that we have met with both leadership in the House and in the Senate to this tough issue. I’ve talked to you several times and I told you that this is eminent domain is really really a tough issue. When you’re talking about taking somebody’s land you need to be very very careful and judicious in how you implement that. It needs to be for the right reasons and you need to make sure that they’re appropriately compensated if we get to that place. And the goal should be not to have to use it, but if it’s just a reality that we’re going to have roads and water and infrastructure then that’s a necessary part of that. But we need to be narrow in scope in how we use it. So I think I’ve indicated several times that if that piece of legislation landed on the governor’s desk that that would put him in a really really tough spot. There’s been only one veto in the history of the state of Iowa, a bill that’s been signed by the governor that had to do with eminent domain when they overrode Governor Vilsack. And so we met with leaders of the house and the senate and walked through what our options were regarding that bill and he was told without any uncertainty that they would be called back in and it would be overridden and nobody wins with that. So that’s just the reality of what we were doing then. So my money’s on this community and I’ve seen you do it before and I know you can do it again.
Question 3: We’ve worked tirelessly over the years, as you know, with the governor to try to promote this community and economic development in as far as make the jobs available. And I think water is a critical issue for us and I know you know that and think I’m singing to the choir here. It’s something that we can’t forget. Thank you.
Question 4: The legislature passed this lovely bill, but it seems to target Clarke County. Is there any … we’re not real based in it… How you fight the state if you have to fight the state to get our things done. I’ve heard people say that Grandstahl, said this whole thing was unconstitutional, does that mean we have to take the legislature to court?
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Well it would be like other things that the courts have ruled on all the way to the Supreme Court and they feel that a law that’s been passed that’s their rule and equal branches of government if the courts feel that a law that’s been passed by the legislature is unconstitutional then they would rule in that effect, and it would either have to go back to the legislature to adjust it or
Question 5: What I’m saying is do we have to hire the lawyers or is there a portion of the state that rules
Lt. Gov Reynolds: That would be – I don’t know that. But at some point I think that this probably will get challenged in the court would be my guess and I don’t know who starts that and what happens. At some point as things continue to move forward that somehow some way it will get challenged. I think its limited right now I think we talked about who can actually challenge the legislation so there’s some limitation there so you have to find an individual that’s been impacted unfairly. And then I would assume it would go on to something with tort reform… that we would have to get done. I don’t think it would happen anytime soon until we can change the makeup of the legislature.
Question 6: I think it’s all on hold right now waiting to see what the engineers and planners can come up with a plan for the reservoir that would exclude the people then eminent domain wouldn’t have to be used. Hopefully I think that’s supposed to show up this month.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: That would be awesome. Every time that there’s a delay there’s a cost so you want to get it right but instead it feels like the same questions have been answered and answered, so.
Question: So I’m concerned about the privatization of Medicaid and the direction that the state is going with that, it’s happened very quickly and not everything is being addressed with it so my concern is that the dollars that’re going with those private insurance companies which I hear is about $500m is being taken away from those Medicaid recipients that need it. The way it’s being addressed and the way am seeing it in the hospitals from the contract we’re being offered from, it certainly reduces what we would be getting reimbursed for for caring for those people, and just the processes moving forward and I just want to share that. If the state is shifting dollars away from caring for those patients, ultimately what it’s going to come down to for providing care being reimbursed by Medicaid less than what the costs are ultimately that’s going to end up being an increase in taxes in our community and to the property owners in our community to make up for that difference. So know that there is a downstream negative impact in the community.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: So we just didn’t decide to do this overnight so that perception that’s out there is just not right. We’ve been working on this for a long time, there’s over 25 states in the nation that are utilizing some type of managed care, probably 73% of the Medicaid population that’s already under some type of managed care. We actually have behavioral health that was actually utilizing managed care in the state of Iowa. So we’ve spent a lot of time really working with other states to see how they’ve implemented it, what they’ve put in place or some of the traps, what were some of the best practices. So we’ve tried to take that and incorporate that in the plan that we’ve put in place. So we’ve been grateful for that, we’re starting I think at a different point than a lot of the other states had started from. The other thing is, its transitioning in so it’s not like our January 1, you have to change your providers. I want to just get some of these. For the first six months there will be no change in provider for the physical health care providers, primary care hospitals etc. And then for the first two years there’ll be no change in the nursing homes, any waiver process in community mental health centers. So even though the new managed care goes in January 1 there’s actually a lot of built-in components of it where they don’t have to change what they’re doing immediately depending on the type of service that they’re getting. When that phase is yet and then they still have options. It’s not based on admittances it’s based on getting a healthy population. So really the goal of it is to better manage, better coordinate care. A lot of these individuals we are seeing five different providers, somebody that’s a pharmacist, they’ve got a doctor, somebody else doing this. So it’s trying to really coordinate that care and work with them because a lot of times when you are seeing that many different providers, then the medicines or the diagnosis is conflicting and then lot of times we do see somebody in the emergency room or we are not getting the results that we are looking for. So the whole purpose of this managed care is to be more patient centered, to be more coordinated care, to have more wrap around care and to really base it on healthy outcomes. The other thing that it’s really designed to do is because it’s capped is that it’s bringing stability [cough] to the cost Medicaid. I think that’s the number I was looking for. I think 70% of Medicaid members are covered. But we’ve seen the cost of Medicaid over the last decade increase 73% and it’s so hard to try to budget for that because it’s entitlement program. And we came into office…I mean they have used the one -time money from ARRA [American and Recovery Act of 2009] to the point that we were looking at a $560 million shortfall. And so this would be another way for us to manage that population in a better manner. We are hoping that it actually has more oversight than the way that we have done it before because not only do we have the legislature that passed legislation last year to provide some oversight, communities now have an opportunity to weigh in. That was not that easy from the State’s perspective. And so I believe that in the long run it’s actually going to provide individuals the opportunity for better and more oversight than we currently have right now. It’s not going to be perfect. We know that. It’s not like this is what we are going to do. We are not going to change it. We are going to continually look for ways that we can enhance it and make it better. The savings that was projected was an average and that’s how we had to come to what we would see as the cost for Medicaid whenever we are doing a budgeting process. So that was a realistic number that we felt that we could achieve in the first 6 months, $51 million dollar savings. And so I think they get reimbursed based on a healthy population, not on the numbers coming in. So I hear ya, we hear ya, and I know there is a lot of concerns out there and I know there is a lot of concerns for providers. And so we are going to continue to listen to those concerns, make sure that we are monitoring them and addressing them as we move forward. So the three things better care, better coordinated care, patient focus and really bringing some stability to the whole Medicaid, the cost of Medicaid.
Audience: There being a sign of one of four companies that to manage care, that is local providers are not logging with that, then the local providers won’t be providing care to them, and those patients will end up in my emergency department. And if the insurance company deems that’s not an emergency if they come in for a cold or sore throat, we are not going to be getting paid for. So that access plus if what we are being offered is a reduction of payment and if we don’t sign then we either choose not to get paid at all for the services we provide or at a reduced rate. We are still going to be providing care to those patients whether they have insurance or not. We need to. That’s our responsibility. But the cost of it, to be able to pay for it is another story.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: So have you seen that charity care go down. So we are hoping is we get a healthier population, that that should hopefully eliminate some of that too. Now they are assigned to a provider, but they can change that. But you are saying it is not one of the four providers networks then–
Audience: There is four networks and initially they have already been assigned what those networks are, so they can change it.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: They can change it.
Audience: But right now our providers and our community, they haven’t signed with any of those four providers. So…
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Okay. I am following you now.
Audience: So right now they don’t have a place to go.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Okay. I will check on that when I get back. Okay? Thank you.
Audience: Thank you.
I’m Kevin Fiene, superintendent at Interstate 35. A comment and then a question. Would that be okay?
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Sure.
Audience: Maybe two comments. One on the numbers of the investment in education are…those are great numbers. They really are and the concept of targeted funding and stamp and TLC. I don’t think any educator worthy of his or her salt would argue with that. Here is a real life situation. One is that at Interstate 35 we are just now putting in our…we just put in our TLC application. We are in the cohort 3. We will get there. But the money that was used for TLC in years one and two that went to other districts that really came out of that total pie which is the number that it’s being shared, we didn’t get a dime of that. Bottom line is a kid at Interstate 35 for those two years was financially worth less than other places in the State. That’s reality and it had to be phased in and I get the economics and all of that.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Well, I mean that’s what people asked for because as we were travelling across the State really pitching this, we didn’t want it seen as a mandate and so we laid it all out for school districts and they had the opportunity to choose whether they wanted to move forward with this or not and when you move into the TLC then you are taking on additional responsibilities too. You are educators. This is what they asked for. This is a blueprint that we travelled all across the State and really it is a product of the feedback that we heard from administrators, from teachers. They wanted to work collaborative. They wanted to stay in the classroom, but they wanted the ability to advance in their profession by taking on additional responsibilities. I mean it is a product of what we heard as we spent two and half years travelling across the State and one of the things we heard loud and clear was don’t shove this down our throats. We want to enter into this when we are ready. And so school districts had to make the decision whether to do that or not. And part of that was sustainable funding because we were asking them to do more and we were asking them to think data driven and to start to build out the objective which is to making sure that we get the kids educated [00:32:18 inaudible].
Audience: I don’t disagree with anything you just said. My comment is – and this is my second year at Interstate 35 – I have no flipping idea why we didn’t go after it the first year it just is. My point is it just is. The second point that, and this will sound strange for anyone that doesn’t have a handle on school financing. I didn’t become a superintendent to deal with just numbers. It’s about the teaching and learning process, but the numbers figure into it. The statement has been made over and over and you made it again this morning Kim, going back to the across the board cuts and how devastating that is and you don’t want to – I don’t want to operate that way either. In my own personal life, I am very conservative for the most part. But the reality in school funding is that an across the board cut hurts less than getting very little money because it’s the spending authority that comes with that money. Because in school finance, and I’ve yet to meet a legislator that understands this, not one, and the spending authority is your credit card limit about what the maximum is. If you lose cash, you do have avenues, locally if your board chooses to do that to generate money. But if it’s getting 1.25% or whatever the percentage is, that’s what your spending authority is and an across the board cut is not how we want to operate, but from a school perspective I am not convinced that’s not a better way and now don’t shoot me anybody. [laughter] You know–
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Something wrong with that formula. That is where we have to [crosstalk]–
Audience: There is absolutely no question–
Lt. Gov Reynolds: I know that’s like the holy grail. I mean I don’t know. They have tried and tried and so then you tinker and you fix, and you do this where you come from. You know, focus specific funding, trying to really get results that we are looking for. I mean I get that, but still we just said it hurt local governments, it hurt school districts to build a budget on what you’re promised. I get the spending authority. So you could still go in and what would you do, bond? Use the cash reserve? How do you pull, it give you the authority [crosstalk].
Audience: Cash reserve levy which is just a local–
Lt. Gov Reynolds: –how to take cash reserve so you can go ahead and spend. Right? And so–
Audience: Or supplement the loss, that would be the concern.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Right, right. Okay so I can understand that. You know, it’s you still can…people need to know when they are promised X amount that they are going to get it. I mean that’s just not a healthy way to do things. Because it just builds and builds and builds, and then you have no reserve and then you are really in trouble. I mean we need to do a better job of really being realistic in what we promise and then delivering what we say we will, say what we are going to do. So that’s another reason I think we really wanted to – That’s why a two year budget is really important to us because that gives you that expectation, you know, two years out. So you can do some planning and do some budgeting. We couldn’t get that done last year and you know this year we will come back again and try to work with that. So our goal is to just really work with both the House and the Senate and come in early on and try to get the funding settled early on in this session, sooner rather than later.
Audience: I am extremely upbeat, look at the glass half full kind of person. And just to be blunt – What will be different in this session than what happened last session?
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Well, it wasn’t a very good session, the last session, and I just think everybody just didn’t want – they would like to see some different this year. I mean it just was not a good, it was just probably one of the worst ones I’ve been in whether it have been in the Senate, whether it was as county treasurer. Working with the legislature. You know, we have been through some rough sessions, but I think so everybody is coming. It’s election year. So that throws a little bit of element into it too sometimes that makes it kind of dicey honestly, but people still are coming from the perspective they would not like to repeat what we did last year.
Audience: Well, I hope and pray that you are right. One final comment. I promise I will shut up.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: No, that’s okay.
Audience: The targeted funding makes me…I get the concept of, with TLC and STEM etc. etc. I get that. It’s focusing money and this again, it’s just a comment. The targeted money categorical funding is used just for that purpose. We still have to pay the light bill. We still have to pay the water bill. We still have to pay the insurance. We have to do these things. And when you look at the total amount of money spent in education, it’s a very impressive statistics. I acknowledge that and appreciate that, but the situation in the real school is that you still have to pay all these other things and that’s coming out of a general fund that we are getting 1.25% which isn’t keeping up with inflation, much less trying to do something above and beyond for our kids because that’s it’s about.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Even as a State, we have limited resources. So there’s only so much money. I’ve said Medicaid has increased 73% over the last 10 years. We’ve put more and more money into education. I mean so we have a limited revenue source also. I think you know what we are really focused on doing all of us together is to making sure we have better outcomes for our kids. That when I go around, there is jobs everywhere and we have kids leaving high school who don’t have the skills to fill the jobs or underemployed people. I mean it just impacts a lot of adult learners, which I am. So we want to make sure that the funding that we’re putting in place, working with educators, getting the best and the brightest into the system, to make sure that we are giving them the tools that they could be successful, changing the way that we teach students, I mean just the whole system. So we just need to get away from that lecture where they are talking. When I go into a classroom and I see kids working together in projects and see them applying what they are learning, they are coming to the classroom differently than they did when I was in school. So we need to adjust for all of that. What we have seen over the last several years is the amount of money going into education has gone like this, but we are just stagnant. We are not seeing our kids moving like they need to be. I mean I’m big with STEM and that’s everything. It’s not educators. My daughter teaches. So I am not pointing fingers. It’s all of us working together to make this happen. That’s why I’m passionate about STEM because I love to see when educators are with me on that. How excited they get about it and how engaged the kids are and the difference is that I think we can make happen with that. But the fact is…I mean it was in 1982 we were number one in eight grade math and we are 25th today. So we have got to figure out what we can do to get our kids where they need to be. We just have to do it. It’s going to take all of us. It’s not going to take one person. It’s going to take all of us making it happen.
Audience: So Kim I’ll go with my colleague back here. Kevin, I’m Steve Seid, Superintendent here at Clarke County, and on the administrative team. So it is frustrating for the 1.25% and then you had the veto and yet all these different things in here. Some legislators say, well, we have the TLC where we are putting all the money, but now when it comes to the State Supplement Aid, they say we are already giving this. So now it’s starting to overshadow each other. Now, it’s becoming a single funding stream rather than separated like it was advertised before.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: I don’t think that will continue to happen, just so you know.
Audience: Right. I hope – and when you said we want people to do what they are supposed to do. It’s frustrating, but legislators year after year after year break the law in handling the funding set and so here we said waiting the negotiations happen, we are shooting in the dark, and so we just hurry up and wait, is what my dad used to talk about some things in his life and experiences. So it is frustrating. Here at Clarke, we have 150 kids, Kim, that qualify for ELO grade scheme II, 150. And have one out of every two of our kids walking the door qualified for free/reduced lunch. And we offer it all at 1.25%. And you talked about math scores but Iowa graduates more kids than anybody else in the nation. So I think we are doing some things, a whole lot more with less. And it’s not going to be solved here, but I went up and saw Amy Sinclair and Joel Frank four times last year. And we just don’t get things accomplished. And we would love to see a change, but somebody has got to hold somebody accountable because the rest of us are just sitting here and waiting, because I know, Kim, when we have reports that have to be due, they are due on that date and the state reminds us when they’re not. However, we get the legislators that just were waiting to who knows when. So it feels very frustrating and now we continue to turn out a good product. We service our kids that English is their second language. We service kids that don’t have the resources, the books. Like I said, one out of every two kids that they qualify and we just…I feel are doing way more with less. Certainly funding has gone up, but expenses are atrocious and to keep up with those things is really a juggling act. I know Kevin experiences that. Kim, when I go to superintendent meetings over at Red Oak, I sit amongst a lot of colleagues and they sit around talking about who they are going to cut and what programs they’re going to do without next year. That’s a hard thing to hear now. Fortunately, at Clarke we’re not in that situation to date. But that’s the reality these guys are juggling a lot of things, trying to just survive a district.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Yeah, I mean that’s why hopefully we can utilize maybe on-line learning and we can take that kind of take advantage of co-sharing educators, but the one thing I want to say because I understand your frustration about not knowing what the dollars are. Because of that, Governor Branstad on the second day of the legislative session laid out what he has proposal was and he laid out a two year budget, not just a one year budget. So we put our budget together. It’s based on the December revenue estimated conference that’s what we have to base our budget on. We worked all December putting that together when the legislature starts on day two. He does the State of the State and he puts his budget out there. And it’s up to the legislature to put their budget together and to pass it and send it to him. So what we are hoping for this year is that we can get, you know, just try to get ahead of it and get something done from a legislative perspective as well as executive branch perspective so that we can move quicker rather than later. I get it, I can’t, I know we can continue to talk about it, how important it is, but it still has to go through the process and so it’s one of those things that just every year [cough] it seems we get left until the last minute and that’s another reason I think it’s really really important that we do a two-year budget and not just doing the one-year budget. Because, when it’s done and then it’s decided and then we are not using it, we are providing you the stability that we talk about. Providing business and industry from a State perspective. So we will continue to try implement that and get that done.
Audience: I’ll give you a congratulations on the appointment announced yesterday of Ron Hansen, the Superintendent of Banking, succeeding Jim Schipper. I wasn’t sure there was going to be a successor for Jim. He did such a good job, it took a while to get someone appointed. You did a great job as Lieutenant Governor of appointing Ron Hansen. He will represent Iowa Banking very well.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Jim did great job. So it was nice to have him serving in that capacity so with Jim leaving I think it’ a good appointment and so…
Audience: The other thing I will piggyback is as a banker, and the other bankers here will probably say, the growth of our economy which creates taxes is severely limited by our workforce, and I hear employer after employer comment of difficulty attracting talent, yeah, they would grow, but in fact they have some decline because of this difficulty having a work ready workforce, includes a lot of things from work ethic to availability of people, growing population and in a population like ours, it declines. So it’s just difficult, and I do think that’s one of the major hurdles that can fix other things, to create tax basis, have the right people, doing the right things, the right way and available.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: I mean that’s another way to get additional dollars for our schools. So we got a declining population which is providing less money for the student basis so we need to grow the economy. That’s one of the ways that we can help solve this problem.
Audience: The last time I talked to Osceola Foods and this may not be a correct thing today and it’s not a reflection on our local effort. That’s not what I am pointing to, but they are looking for 50 people, they couldn’t fill the slots since February.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: No. That’s not unusual. I am telling you. It’s anywhere from one to five to a hundred. Every single business. I am not talking large corporations. I am talking small, medium, and large businesses. I am sure Brian you are facing it also. So I mean we are trying to do Home Base Iowa initiative where we are trying to bring new people to the state, because honestly we can’t grow to the capacity that this state has [cough] with the existing population. We can do so much more, but we won’t be able to do it with the existing population. So we are trying to attract veterans into the state as they draw down the military which that might change here, as things are happening around the world, but Future-Ready Iowa, that’s that pipeline, working with underemployed and unemployed to get them the skills, the certifications that they need, trying to figure out where they are at, trying to find individuals that have started into post secondary education, but never attained that attainment, their certifications. So that we can see what they need to get that done. But a lot of times, it’s a matter of – it’s work ethic. It’s a matter of showing up. So it’s all of that stuff and staying engaged in the work force community, but Skilled Iowa, Home Base Iowa. Future Ready Iowa. STEM. I mean we are trying to find out everything we can to get individuals the skills that they need to be successful and then to really create that pipeline of talent to continue to grow and innovate in the State of Iowa.
So I talked a little bit about the dashboard, working with the career pipeline with our students, but you know adult learners can move into that also and then it would have, kind of that one stop shop where businesses all around the state could post available jobs. So it’s kind of like we do with the teacher where they can go on and apply for a job in school districts all across the State, they can go to Teach Iowa.
Lt. Gov Reynolds:
So something similar to that, with the jobs that are available. So we keep them right in the system so we can get all their information in one spot and just simplify it and make it as easy as we can. Anything else?
The other thing I tell you really quick, too that we are looking at. So I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as we can originally have thought, but with farm prices and commodity prices where they are at and with the bird flu, I mean we are potentially looking at very modest growth in revenue. So I mean that’s going to probably be another reality that we are going to be dealing, potentially dealing with in December. So the other thing that we are doing with schools too as far as like the STEM initiative and the literacy program and the Iowa TLC with STEM…that’s going to be about $5.2 million appropriation, but I have been able to take that and leverage that with private sectors. So I have been almost able to match that dollar to dollar, so that we can start to scale those programs in school districts all across the state of Iowa. So that it’s more systemic from Pre-K to kindergarten to first to second not a hit and miss and we have seen some pretty good results with that. So I think there is opportunities also for business and industry to play a role with our school districts and helping meet that need, getting students in to the factory. So they see what it looks like, how technical it is. How automated it is, how clean it is, to really start to expose them to the jobs that are available and then they start to build a network and they start to…I think look at their community a little bit differently, and not thinking that how can I get out of here quicker rather than later, and they see what our businesses are doing and what they are contributing to the community. And hopefully they kind of want to be a part of that.
Audience: Just a comment. We have obviously got a water supply issue here but additionally Osceola and many other peer communities have a wastewater treatment problem and a lot of that is from the EPA. We are looking locally at an upgrade or a reconstruction of our facility to the tune of 12 million dollars which is nearly all of our bonding capacity. It would be nice if the state revolving fund loan program were opened up a little bit more to allow for the financing of water supply and refinancing the waste water debt so that that burden could be carried locally. I don’t think that this is State issue to finance necessarily, but I like the SRF program–
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Through IFA, right?
Audience: Through IFA. It would be nice if existing debt could also be refinanced into an issuance so that, from a cash flow issue…
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Because they ____–
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Yeah, and as they continue to bring the rate down [crosstalk]—
Audience: Yeah, the rate right now is one and a quarter. And obviously that’s competitive, but it would help us tremendously if we can take our old debt and roll it into a…
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Refinancing existing debt. Okay. I…have you talked to Dave Jamison?
Audience: We are having a meeting on Monday as well.
Lt. Gov Reynolds: Okay. Okay. And then we are working on an initiative for next year that can hopefully, it’s too early in the stages to rule it out, but can really I think very creatively help fund water quality as well as the issue that you are talking about right now. So we are looking at a method that I think would go a long way in solving those problems.
Okay, I feel appropriately warmed up for the next two. [laughter] Thank you so much honestly. It’s an honor to [clapping] serve.
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