Branstad buzzes Le Mars, promises better budgeting

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Gov. Terry Branstad, running in the June 8 primary election for governor, speaks with Plymouth County Republicans at a fundraiser for his campaign Wednesday at the Willow Creek Golf Course Clubhouse in Le Mars.

Squeezing a trip to Le Mars in between two events where he appeared with Newt Gingrich in central Iowa, former Gov. Terry Branstad met with about 60 of the party faithful Wednesday to speak about his plans for Iowa.

"We've got to put the focus back on restoring fiscal responsibility and jobs and education," the gubernatorial hopeful said during a meet-and-greet time at the Willow Creek Golf Course Clubhouse.

With less than two weeks before the June 8 primary where he will face off with Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts, Branstad is touting his experience as Iowa's governor from 1983-99.

"I really think people are looking for stability and predictability again," he said.

His first move as governor would be to create a five-year strategic budget plan for Iowa.

"I'd insist that Legislature pass not an annual budget but a biannual budget," Branstad added.

He also would veto any bill that surpassed the 99 percent spending limit, a limit which would cap spending at 99 percent of the state's revenue.

"Secondly, put the focus back on jobs and economic development," Branstad said. "I'd choose good people to run the department of economic development."

Thirdly, he'd reduce commercial property tax.

Farmland is taxed based on productivity, he said. Residential property taxes have a rollback. Heavy industry is taxed on buildings but not equipment, he added.

"The only class we haven't done anything about is commercial," Branstad said. "That's your main street business, that's your apartment houses, and it hurts Iowa."

Iowa, he said, has the second highest commercial taxes in the country.

Branstad's plan -- create a commercial rollback and tax new commercial property only at 65 percent.

Existing property would be phased down from 100 percent to 65 percent in about five years, he added.

"The state would have to help local governments because all that revenue goes to local governments," Branstad said. "We'd have to come up with resources to offset the loss. But by doing it over a four or five year period, I think it would be manageable."

He'd also cut the top income tax rate for corporate from 12 to 6 percent and expedite the permitting process for companies wanting to locate in Iowa.

Branstad, who flew into the Le Mars Airport for the Wednesday event, said he'd be returning to Des Moines that evening to speak at a Republican fundraiser, along with former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich -- reportedly a possible presidential hopeful for 2012.

Some laud Gingrich for playing a lead role in ending a 40-year Democrat hold on the House majority in the mid-1990s, dubbed the Republican Revolution.

Will Republicans see a repeat in 2010?

"We're not going to take anything for granted," Branstad said. "We're working very hard."

One area Democrats have traditionally beat Republicans in recent elections is in absentee ballot voting, he said.

"So far in this election we have over 18,000 Republican requests for absentee ballots and only 6,600 Democrats," Branstad said.

He predicts voter turnout for the coming election will be strong -- and with a good showing of Republicans.

"I think it feels good," Branstad said. "I think this is a year where Republicans can do very well."

Branstad promised future visits to Plymouth County if he's elected.

"When I was governor I went to every county every year," he said. "I will go to every county every year that I'm governor. I just think you need to stay in touch with people."

So far in this campaign, he's been to 78 counties. He plans to hit the remaining 21 before November's general election.

Branstad said he sees meeting with people and groups -- and generally being accessible -- as part of the responsibility as governor.

"I was here for a lot of expansions during the time I was governor and for many other events in Le Mars and I will be back," Branstad said.

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