CORALVILLE, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she will use some pandemic relief funds on a marketing campaign to persuade people to move to Iowa, a state that has a job surplus and has lifted COVID-19 restrictions more quickly than other states.
“We’re going to do a significant promotional campaign to highlight the beautiful things we have happening in the state,” Reynolds told about 200 people gathered for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry conference at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. “We’re already starting to see people coming back who have been on the East and the West Coast — Iowans that have left who recognize not only have we kept our economy open, but we kept our kids in school.”
The Republican governor said her administration is putting together a plan for how to spend the state government’s share of $4 billion in American Rescue Plan funds expected to come to state and local governments.
“This is definitely an area we can utilize some of those funds,” she said.
The message Reynolds would share in the campaign, she said, would be about Iowa’s strong fiscal health — with a $305 million budget surplus — and how the Legislature earlier this year cut taxes and passed bills to improve access to child care. She also noted twice in Wednesday’s speech that the WalletHub personal finance website has said Iowa is the state with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions.
Reynolds is so confident in Iowa’s economy that she ended Iowa’s participation in additional $300 unemployment benefit payments for out-of-work Iowans. Iowa is one of 25 states — most of those with Republican governors — that opted out of the stimulus program before its expiration. These benefits stop for Iowans Saturday.
She told the conference members her decision was based on the number of Iowa employers who can’t find enough workers and the inherent value of work.
“With 100 million Americans sitting on the sidelines of the labor market, I worry as much about cultural effects of this denigration of work as I do about the immediate impact,” she said. “Both provided me more than enough reason to take the stand that I took.”
Reynolds said Iowa’s higher education institutions need to work to prepare students for the jobs that need filling in the state, including in the manufacturing sector. She signed a fiscal 2022 budget that includes $23 million for Last Dollar Scholarships, which go to college students in in-demand fields, and $4.2 million for an employer innovation fund, she said.
When a reporter asked Reynolds about the state of Nevada’s efforts to jump ahead of the Iowa caucuses with a presidential primary every four years, Reynolds said she hasn’t talked with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, but is leaving these conversations to Iowa’s party chairs.
“We do it well,” she said of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. “We know the issues. Anyone can come to Iowa regardless of their background and have a fair shot. We’re going to continue to do everything we can to maintain it.”
Reynolds indicated she is likely to call a special session of the Iowa Legislature later this year to redraw political boundaries once 2020 census numbers are available. But she wouldn’t say whether she’d like the Legislature to handle any other topics, such as her proposal to ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports.
“When I call a special session that (redistricting) will be the focus,“ she told reporters. ”I can’t determine what happens, but that’s my focus.”