Iowa sure could use a good CEO focused on state government now.
A majority of Iowa voters in 2014 thought they picked one when they put Terry Branstad back in the governor’s seat. But in May 2015, Iowa is stumbling through a series of issues that might have been resolved with clearer management. Consider:
• Iowa education funding: State law requires education funding to be the first order of legislative business. Once again, it is the last, though the sticking points remain precisely the same today as they were the first day of the session.
Branstad stayed on the sidelines as House Republicans insisted on funding levels below the rate of inflation, then failed to reach any kind of compromise. Resolving impasses on Iowa’s No. 1 priority is precisely why Branstad’s management skills are sorely needed.
• Iowa bullying bill: This was Branstad’s baby, a fairly non-controversial measure that broadens school authority to respond to bullying, especially online. The Democrat-controlled Senate easily voted “yes.” Yet the Republican governor can’t seem to sway his House Republican colleagues.
• Iowa mental health facilities: We agree with the governor that the state’s ancient residential mental health hospitals are anachronisms that need to be replaced with local, private contracted providers. Yet once again, the governor declined to work with his legislative majority on a transition plan.
His budget simply eliminated funding for Mount Pleasant and Clarinda hospitals, leaving legislators in those districts hanging out to dry. In those districts, the hospitals are important jobs providers.
Iowa needed a strong manager to spell out a transition for those workers, not just yank funding.
• Iowa state penitentiary: The window has closed for blaming former Gov. Chet Culver for the continuing design, construction and management issues at the Fort Madison prison.
Branstad’s first act after succeeding Culver was to scrap the project labor agreement used so successfully around here to assure worker availability and quality. Then he laid off a dozen Department of Administrative Services workers overseeing the project, and replaced them with political appointees.
• Orascom fertilizer plant: Branstad worked hard to sell Iowans on his initiative to lavish $500 million in state aid, local incentives and tax credits on this Egyptian firm’s Lee County plant. But as the contractor laid off Iowa workers and sought cheaper out-of-state labor, the governor had been silent.
This past week, he deployed Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham to intervene, a welcome step, but tacit acknowledgment of prior management lapses.
Our 2010 endorsement showed why we were among Iowans convinced Branstad could manage the state through tough times.
Our 2014 Branstad endorsement reiterated faith he could navigate Iowa through these highly partisan times more successfully than we’ve seen in some other neighboring states.
We remain eager to see this accomplished governor exhibit the focused leadership that persuaded a majority of Iowans to keep him on as Iowa’s CEO.
— The Quad-City Times,
also a Lee Enterprises newspaper