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Iowa Democrats continue to view Branstad’s jobs tour with skepticism

Half a year into Gov. Terry Branstad‘s fifth term in Terrace Hill, Democratic skepticism continues to mount over Branstad’s much repeated goal of creating 200,000 new jobs in the state over the next four-and-a-half years, especially as the doors begin to close at Iowa Workforce Development field offices at the end of this month.

Today, Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds continued their “Jobs for Iowa” tour through the western side of the state, a conservative-influenced demographic that live in mostly small, rural communities or on farms. The 43-city tour started in June; the western leg will cover 12 communities in three days.

On the Governor’s website, Branstad touted the tour “where we will discuss the progress we made in the last legislative session and the plans we have to continue moving Iowa forward toward economic prosperity.” In addition, the Governor has been adamant commercial property tax reform will be a top priority in the 2012 Legislative session, and that such reforms are essential to making the Hawkeye State a competitive market for businesses to either relocate or expand.

But Democrats say since Branstad took office, the opposite has happened, and claim silence from the Governor’s Office has only furthered their already-germinated doubt about Iowa’s future job growth.

The state has lost 8,200 jobs since Branstad, Iowa’s longest-serving Governor, took office, according to IWD statistics, and Iowa has seen the loss of 8,700 since June alone.

The figures have prompted Democrats into action: Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) said Branstad needs to call for bipartisan action on economic development next session, the Iowa Democratic Party has filed an unanswered request for the cost of the “Jobs for Iowa” tour and Senate Democrats have expressed concern over the quality of jobs.

IDP officials said they requested records detailing all the expenses and reimbursements connected to Branstad’s job tour July 6, without a reply. Party spokesman Sam Roecker said Tuesday the party will continue to push for the records as the Governor prepares for the western leg of the town hall meetings.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said there is no discrimination against the Democrats’ wait time for the records.

“The records are in various offices and departments of government, so our office went above and beyond to obtain these records,” he said. “This takes time, and was communicated to [IDP] as we work diligently to grant them a full, accurate response to the request.”

Senate Majority Leader [Mike Gronstal](http://iowaindependent.com/tag/ mike-gronstal) has accused the Branstad administration of “dismantling the workforce development offices,” and in part, razing job growth since the offices can serve as a physical resource for dislocated workers to receive employment assistance. The field offices are being closed in order to streamline employment assistance.

Democrats are further concerned that while Branstad has pledged 200,000 new jobs, the quality and pay of the jobs is yet to be foreseen.

“In the 1980′s, when Gov. Branstad was first Governor, it was about creating any job,” Gronstal has said. “It wasn’t about creating wealth in this state, and it did little for Iowa.”

Democrats have said in addition to their own property tax reform ideas, next session may see an effort to restore more IWD field offices.

Ed Wallace, deputy director of IWD, has said the public-private partnership under Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress, called IPEP, will focus on a range of careers, including more specialized fields like bio-technology.

“We have long been a financial hub, but information technology is something we’re really paying attention to here in Iowa, along with focusing on the health care industry, which has many high demand jobs,” Wallace told The Iowa Independent in July.

“Gov. Branstad is a pro-jobs governor who continues to work every single day to ensure every Iowan who wants a job is able to find one,” Albrecht said, adding the Governor “remains committed to creating jobs in Iowa, and will make his case to the people of Iowa in spite of the Democrats’ effort to put roadblocks in front of his job-creating solutions.”

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