SIBLEY — Gov. Terry Branstad touted job growth and state budget improvements Thursday while lamenting a lack of progress on property tax reform.

During a town hall meeting with 30 people Branstad described being roughly one-third of the way to his 2010 campaign goal of adding 200,000 jobs in Iowa. Seventeen months into the four-year term, Branstad said 70,000 jobs have been added since 2011.

Ken Harthoorn, Melvin, asked Branstad to clarify his job-creation numbers. Branstad said there has been a net gain of 21,000 jobs in Iowa, given that many jobs also have been lost while he has been governor.

Branstad, a Republican, added that in the 12 previous years, when Democrats Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver were governors, the state added a net total of 6,600 jobs. He also noted the unemployment rate in Iowa has dropped from 6.1 percent to 5.1 percent in the time he has been governor.

“Now, well, am I satisfied? No, we can always do better,” said Branstad, who had a 16-year stint as governor in the 1980s and 1990s.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state is adding jobs because, unlike the federal government with its regulatory requirements and rising debt, Iowa lawmakers haven’t passed legislation that causes uncertainty for businesses.

Branstad joined in the criticism of the federal government and praised Iowa for balancing the 2012-13 fiscal year budget without raising taxes, as occurred in Illinois, or piling up debt, as the federal government has done.

Branstad said he was disappointed the Iowa Senate, controlled by Democrats, didn’t move in concert with the Iowa House, controlled by Republicans, to pass property tax reform. In March, he had spoken in Storm Lake about the need to reform property taxes to relieve the burden on Iowans, but the session ended without an accord.

A bill Branstad backed would have reduced property taxes by nearly $1.2 billion over eight years, with $606 million in savings to residential property owners, $347 million in commercial taxes and $226 million in agriculture property taxes.

“We understand the simple truth that property taxes are too high,” he said.

Branstad said a notable accomplishment in the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions was a move away from using one-time revenue sources to fund ongoing state expenses, a practice he said had previously resulted in harder decisions about how to fund programs in the following year.

“We are spending only ongoing revenue for ongoing expenses,” he said.

Branstad and Reynolds also held town hall meetings Thursday in Sheldon and Rock Rapids.

- Bret Hayworth is a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, a Lee Enterprises newspaper.

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