Government

In critique of Reynolds, Democrats say cutting job centers hurt Iowans

They take on Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds over one of her own key issues

State Sen. Rob Hogg spoke about how the Reynolds and Branstad administrations have affected Iowa’s workforce on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2018. The Cedar Rapids news conference was part of a tour called “Reynolds’ Record: Workforce Development Cuts.” (Madison Arnold/The Gazette).
State Sen. Rob Hogg spoke about how the Reynolds and Branstad administrations have affected Iowa’s workforce on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2018. The Cedar Rapids news conference was part of a tour called “Reynolds’ Record: Workforce Development Cuts.” (Madison Arnold/The Gazette).
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Leading Iowa Democrats are sharpening their attacks on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign promise to help working Iowans.

Led by Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price, officials stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell on Thursday toured Eastern Iowa to highlight concerns for Iowa’s workforce under the Republican governor’s administration as part of what they are calling “The Reynolds Record: Workforce Development Cuts Tour.”

Price, along with Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, state Sen. Rob Hogg and others, held a news conference Thursday morning in Cedar Rapids, one of five planned throughout the state this week, to discuss how the reduction in Iowa Workforce Development centers affects Iowans.

“Workforce Development offices keep Iowa’s workforce growing and our economy growing,” Price said. “They connect Iowa businesses to people who are looking for good paying jobs. They help Iowa families make ends meet when there are layoffs.”

Under former Gov. Terry Branstad in 2011, the state began scaling back the number of Iowa Workforce Development centers, which provide many unemployment services like job placement and training around the state. Iowa Workforce Development’s 2011 annual report said the organization had 55 staffed locations and other access points. Now there are 15 regional, four satellite and 14 expansion offices.

To support the loss of staffed locations, the state established a computer kiosk system to provide the workforce services without the cost of staffing. However, a Des Moines Register report last year showed the state was not servicing the more than 700 self-help stations.

The Democrats said Thursday that with fewer staffed centers, fewer residents are using Iowa Workforce Development services. The organization’s 2011 annual report showed its offices worked with more than 260,000 individuals, while that number dropped to more than 147,000 individuals in the 2017 annual report.

“Democrats want every Iowan to have access to the skills and training Iowans need to participate in the 21st century economy,” said Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. “We should be empowering Iowans with the opportunity to participate in the economy with better skills and better jobs with better wages and benefits and work conditions.”

In response, Reynolds’ campaign touted Iowa’s low unemployment rate, which was 2.5 percent in June, according to Iowa Workforce Development’s database. In June 2011, it was 5.6 percent.

“Under Gov. Reynolds’ leadership, Iowa’s unemployment rate is at a historic low and incomes are rising. There are 60,000 jobs open in Iowa right now, and we’re just getting started,” said Pat Garrett, Reynolds for Iowa Campaign spokesman, in a statement citing the number of jobs available on iowajobs.org. “Doom-and-gloom Democrats are stuck with Fred Hubbell, a candidate who fired employees, cut pay and benefits all while taking massive $90,000 raises for himself.”

Garrett is referring to Hubbell’s time as a leader of the Equitable of Iowa Companies, which included Younkers, and of Younkers itself.

The Reynolds campaign in recent weeks has attacked Hubbell’s leadership record while leading the companies in the 1980s and 1990s, when some stores were shuttered and he received a salary increase.

Earlier this year, Reynolds signed into law the Future Ready Iowa initiative. It aims to increase the number of Iowans with postsecondary education or training to 70 percent by 2025.

In March, the bill passed with unanimous support from both the Iowa House and Senate, although some legislators expressed concerns over whether it would be fully funded.

“The bill changes lives by helping Iowans earn credentials that prepare them for rewarding careers in advanced manufacturing, computer science, finance, health care and many other fields,” Reynolds said at the time of the signing. “The bill also helps employers hire the skilled workers that they need to grow, which means Iowa communities will be even more prosperous.”

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The touring Democrats also made stops in Davenport and Washington, and plan tops in Boone and Mason City.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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