"It was one of the most successful legislative sessions we've ever had," Iowa Governor Terry Branstad declared in opening a Tama County Town Hall meeting at King Tower Cafe Tuesday afternoon, June 25. Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds were joined by State Representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) in hosting about 40 area residents.
With their theme of "Our Opportunity Our Iowa" they ticked off accomplishments and progress in job creation going hand-in-hand with economic development, education innovations and tax cuts. "Iowa is on a roll economically," Branstad said.
They also opened the floor to questions.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (right) gestures during a Town Hall Meeting at King Tower Cafe in Tama on Tuesday, June 25. Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) also met with some 40 area residents attending. News-Herald/John Speer
Carol Peterie of Toledo said, "We've been sitting here with baited breath waiting for own beef packing plant, I'm hoping the government is encouraging this and not putting regulations on..." Her question came after Branstad referred to a new beef plant start up in northern Iowa.
"Hopefully we are going to see something happen here in the next few months," Branstad responded concerning the Tama plant. He said efforts "are confidential so I can't tell you the details, I'm pretty hopeful and I think they've got good prospects. And, I know this has bee years in the making."
The governor continued, "We are trying to do all we can I am very familiar with that." I think Bruce Rastteter is one of the people who's been involved with it. It's confidential but I'm pretty hopeful.
"I think (they) have got some good prospects and I know this has been years in the making.
it could be very good for Tama County, a lot of jobs (and ) obviously a good market for cattle and hopefully we will see something happen here.
"I do know some of other people they are talking to, but an economic development project like that I don't want to jeopardize by naming who they are. we are working on that and i can tell you the state is 100 percent behind trying to get the beef plant reopened."
Jimmy and Lejka Arifi, operators of King tower Cafe, were complimented by Branstad and Fisher for reopening the business which had been closed. During the question session, Arifi asked the governor about high food prices.
Branstad said some large food companies choose to blame ethanol production from corn as a factor. He charged they were misinformed and said Iowans need to educate people, particularly this on east and west coasts a primary byproduct of ethanol production is livestock feed.
"Fuel prices" were said to be the culprit in higher food prices according to the governor.
The Rev. LaVern Seth said the South Tama ministerial Association issues vouchers to pay for persons in need to travel to Iowa City for health care. Branstad and Reynolds noted as part of new Iowa health care plan a goal is to reduce travel distance for all to a maximum of 30 miles.
Earlier Branstad gave some details of the compromise health plan passed by the legislature in response to a question from Bruce Tomlinson, Tama. While Reynolds and Branstad said the new system was "the best of the three available choices" they admitted it is "complicated."
Branstad said Nick Gearhart, Iowa insurance commissioner, is working to make the plan understandable before sign-up starts in October.
Among other highlights:
Branstad said his staff would check into an allegation employees were unable to accept any gifts, even cookies, from Iowa Veterans Home residents or relatives as the result of legislation or a rule he put in force. Branstad, Reynolds and Fisher said they had no knowledge of such a rule. Branstad also said he believes his recent appointment of retired Brig. General Jodi Tymeson as chief operating officer for the Veterans Home will quell concerns about the leadership of Commandant David Worley.
Branstad and Reynolds said they were on track with a reduction in Iowa's unemployment rate to 4.6 percent - the nation's fifth lowest - combined with recent success with new or expanding companies including Google and Microsoft in the state; advancement of the STEM program and educational advancements in the system; no raise in tuition for Iowa community or colleges or state universities for in-state students for next year; state funds at a surplus amount with a balanced budget and spending at 97 percent of revenues.