Former Gov. Terry Branstad believes Iowa needs to restructure its salary and benefit packages for state employees as one solution to addressing the state’s current financial dilemma.
“We’re way out of whack,” Branstad said during a campaign appearance in Glenwood last Wednesday.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate said salaries and benefit packages for state employees are considerably higher than those provided to workers in the private sector.
“I think you’ve got to look at this reasonably and compare the salaries and benefits to the private sector, not public employees in Illinois or Wisconsin,” Branstad said during an interview with The Opinion-Tribune. “Most state employees (in Iowa) are having 100 percent of their health insurance benefits paid for. That’s not the way it is in the private sector.”
Branstad also questioned the current funding structure for the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS), the state’s largest public employee pension fund. Presently, Branstad said, taxpayers are providing approximately 60 percent of the IPERs funding with individual employees contributing the remaining 40 percent. Branstad believes taxpayers are carrying too much of the IPERS burden.
“You have to ask if this is fair to the taxpayers,” Branstad said.
Compensation packages for state employees was one of several issues Branstad addressed while speaking to an audience of approximately 70 people in the basement meeting room at Glenwood State Bank.
Reducing commercial property taxes would also be a high priority for Branstad if elected in November. He believes reducing the property tax on new commercial structures to 60 percent of their assessed value would go a long way in sparking economic development, creating 200,000 new jobs and raising family incomes by 25 percent, goals he’s set for the next five years.
“I’m told the commercial property tax in Des Moines is higher than in New York City,” Branstad said.
Branstad, who served 16 years as governor (from 1983 to 1999), said he is aware of the Glenwood community’s interest in the on-going mental health facility debate taking place in the state legislature. As governor, Branstad said he would seek an assessment of the state’s mental health needs, services and facilities before making decisions and recommendations on what direction the state should go.
“There’s a need for the services, but how can we do it?” he said.
During his interview with The Opinion-Tribune, Branstad said he would encourage southwest Iowans to push forward for the construction of the U.S. Highway 34 – Missouri River bridge. It was during Branstad’s tenure as governor that plans for the now $130 million bridge project were initially developed. It’s been 11 years since he left office and construction has yet to begin.
“If you’re in the five-year plan, that’s good,” he said. “That’s why it’s critically important not to lose funding now.”
On the subject of education, Branstad said, “I believe in choice,” noting that parents should have the choice of sending their children to public schools, parochial schools or home-schooling.
Branstad stressed, however, that he also supports standardized assessments to ensure student achievement, progress and accountability.
Branstad plans to visit every county and university in Iowa prior to the June 8 primary election. He told his Glenwood audience that his experience and proven track record in working with both sides of the political aisle make him the most-qualified candidate for the job.