Gov. Branstad unveils new transparency policy

by Tessa Lengeling, news editor

Transparency in state government is Gov. Terry Branstad’s policy as midterm elections quickly approach. He focused on open communication between Iowans and Terrace Hill as he spoke with Indianola supporters Thursday morning.

The Branstad administration has been involved in secrecy scandals in the past. The administration was accused of “hush money” activity when it was revealed a former state employee was offered $6,500 for their secrecy. The scandal resulted in Mike Carroll, head of the state’s administrative department, being fired after a Des Moines Register article broke the hush money news.

The Branstad campaign left scandal in the past and focused on Iowa’s future. “We led Iowa’s comeback in 2010 and this year we are building Iowa’s future,” Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said at the supporter gathering.

According to the Branstad campaign, Iowa’s future will include an open communication government. The campaign is pushing a “state government more open, transparent and accountable” with the start of a new Government Accountability Portal.

The portal is referred to as the “one-stop shop” for citizens to submit complaints, comments, suggestions and requests online dealing with state government. Branstad assured supporters that an initial response to each submission would be within 24 hours and agency acknowledgement would be within 48 hours.

The roll out of the transparency policy set the tone for Branstad and Reynolds to remind supporters of their record and what they plan to provide if re-elected. “I have released 24 years of tax returns and will continue to do so. Reynolds and I do weekly news conferences to keep transparent and get information out to the public,” Branstad said.

Branstad also mentioned the work his administration has done for Iowa.

“We cut property taxes, but did not do it on the backs of Iowa counties,” Branstad said. “Warren county will get $1.06 million back from the state in tax relief. We have created over 150,000 jobs and unemployment is down to 4.5 percent.”

Branstad and Reynolds spoke about leading Iowans into the future. It created excitement in two Simpson College student supporters and activists.

Amy Frakes, Simpson junior said, “Today was one of my favorite events so far. It was very factual and they made strong arguments for what the administration has done. Instead of focusing on the opposition, they talked about maintaining responsibilities.”

Another Simpson junior, Austin Jacobs, talked about why he thought Branstad is the perfect candidate for this fall. “We were in the red ink and the size of Iowa government was quite large before Branstad came into office three and a half years ago. He has done so much for Iowa, there is no comparison with his opponent Sen. Jack Hatch.”

Students are not the only ones excited for Nov. 4. Reynolds talked about the importance of young people being involved in politics.

“This is their (young people) future. The federal debt we have is something the youth are going to be saddled with,” Reynolds said. “In Iowa we are telling a different story. We are growing, reducing taxes, investing in the workforce and young people to keep them working in Iowa.”

“Students need to be involved. Is it government or the private sector and individuals that are better suited to make decisions. I would say it is the private sector,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also talked about the work the Branstad administration has done for student loan debt. “We are working to have a student debt program that would allow graduated students to volunteer at certain organizations and have their debt reduced by the state,” Reynolds said.

“Students would see their loan debt reduced through giving back to the community and state.”

As November gets closer, the Branstad campaign will be rolling out more policies to attract voters and reflect on their building for Iowa’s future theme.