Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said in Indianola Wednesday night that he believes the Republican Party should be more inclusive and described a changing Republican landscape across the state.
Branstad was asked by an Indianola woman what his response to recent accusations that he’s against the Tea Party and trying to bring more evangelicals and gays into the Republican Party.
“We need to be an inclusive party that welcomes people,” Branstad responded. “We also need to be conservative and stand on our principals and work for the things that we believe in.”
He said the accusations that he’s against the Tea Party are coming from the national media who are trying to split the Republican Party.
Branstad also said that the Republican Party in Iowa is starting to change.
He explained that it used to be you were either Catholic or a Republican in Iowa, but the Republican Party is becoming more successful in predominantly Catholic areas such as Carroll and Bancroft.
Branstad said not everyone in those areas is necessarily changing their registration, but Republican candidates are receiving more votes from the regions.
Those votes, Branstad said, are what the party will need to be successful at gaining the majority in the Iowa Senate in 2014 and said that’s why the Republican Party needs to be more inclusive.
Branstad, who is Catholic, said he has never wavered on his conservative ways.
He said during the last legislative session there were some compromises made with the Democratic Senate, but the conservatives were able to get more things accomplished than the Democrats.
“They wanted to spend more money,” Branstad said. “We wanted reform.”
Branstad touched on three major issues that the Iowa legislature dealt with last session.
He said the first thing he wanted to accomplish was to pass some form of property tax relief to make sure the state could attract better jobs.
Branstad said he was able to accomplish that and also add a credit for small businesses that provided them with some income tax relief.
The second item that Branstad said he was proud to accomplish was an education reform.
The Democrats, Branstad said, wanted to solve any problems by upping allowable growth. Republicans eventually agreed to raise the allowable growth, but first made sure the growth was going to be covered by supplemental state aid instead of the money made from property taxes.
The final big issue Branstad said Iowa was able to tackle last year was the Healthy Iowa Plan.
“Democrats wanted to do the Obama thing,” Branstad said. “Just expand Medicaid. Well we have done that before. All you do is have more people dependent on government but their health is getting worse not better.”
He said the Republicans in the House were able to pass the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.
Branstad said he’s working with Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to get a waiver releasing Iowa from the national healthcare program after Iowa launched its own program in October.
“We thought this should all be approved by Oct. 1 but they’re all too busy with their screwed up program,” Branstad said.
He said he’s had two meetings with Sebelius who was concerned that people who are below the 100 percent poverty rate would have to pay $10 per month to the Iowa program.
“It’s a freebie,” Branstad said in response. “If they do regular checkups, called health risk assessment, with their doctor, it all gets refunded. We’re just giving an incentive for people to do the right thing.”
He said that’s the sticking point Iowa has right now.
Branstad said even though the state wasn’t given the official go-ahead for the program before Oct. 1 the state launched the program anyway.
“If at the end of the day they want to say no it’s going to be on their back,” Branstad said. “By the way, with our website, we’re not having problems.”
He said he’s happy with Iowa because despite the fact that there is a split government, things have been getting done.
Branstad said that the state has been able to balance its budget while getting those things done.
He said his administration has been able to restore the money that the previous administration took from the cash reserves and economic emergency accounts.
Branstad said he’s proud to say that his administration has cut more than 1,000 state jobs since he and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds took office.
“We’ve worked really hard to reduce the size of state government,” Branstad said. “We’re continuing to look at ways we can be more efficient.”
Branstad was in Indianola along with Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix to show his support for Julian Garrett, a candidate for Iowa Senate District 13.
Garrett will face Democrat Mark Davitt during a special election that will be held Nov. 19.