URBANDALE – Gov. Terry Branstad attributes the successes he’s had as the state’s chief executive for nearly 18 years to tenacity, dogged determination and surrounding himself with top-notch people who assemble the best information needed to make the right decision for the right reason.
Asked by an Urbandale Chamber of Commerce member Thursday how he stands firm in his beliefs in the face adversity, Branstad said he learned years ago from a high school football coach that when the going gets tough, the tough get going and he has lived by those words in navigating the travails he’s faced in five terms as Iowa governor.
“I think it’s important that when the flack starts to fly, not to duck,” the rural Boone Republican said, “to stay in there and to hang tough and to fight for what you believe in. And be tenacious, a lot of times it doesn’t happen the first time or even the second time.”
Branstad, who served a stint as president of Des Moines University after being governor for four terms from 1983 to 1999, noted that he will be making his third try next legislative session in trying to forge a compromise that will cut tax rates for commercial and industrial property owners, limit growth in property tax increases for agricultural and residential property to 2 percent annually, and provide $50 million a year for five years to help local governments adjust to the phased property tax changes. He also wants to lower the state’s top corporate income tax rate of 12 percent to improve Iowa’s competitive position in attracting job-creating businesses.
Another factor he said that works in his favor is the fact that the decision to seek a fifth term in 2010 that brought him out of retirement from public service came from a groundswell of public support rather than personal political ambition.
“I don’t need this job. I’ve done it before. I’m only doing it because I love the state of Iowa and I want to make a difference,” Branstad said. “So threats and intimidation don’t work with me because like I said, I don’t need the job, I’m only doing it because I love Iowa and I think maybe I can make a difference.”
Branstad said his administration in turning a large state deficit he inherited into a modest surplus with the state’s emergency and cash reserves fully filled at 10 percent. He said it is critical that the federal government take necessary steps to get the nation’s financial house in order and reduce the “massive” debt that is growing by $1 trillion a year. “This is a huge, looming fiscal cliff that we’re about to fall off and we have to do something about it,” he said.
The governor was asked about the next round of collective bargaining with state employees and his decision to voluntarily pay 20 percent of his health insurance premium as a way to lead by example in working to end the state practice of providing health care at no cost to many state workers. “We’re going to do our level best to try to get that done through the process,” the governor told a questioner.
After the luncheon, Branstad said he wanted to see what recommendations a special tax force studying instructional time issues before taking a position of whether the state should end the waivers issued to local school districts that want to begin classes before the Sept. 1 start date. He said it is appropriate that lawmakers address the issue next session and, although he declined to stake out a position, he said he was dismayed that some high schools were playing football games in August before the Iowa State Fair had ended.