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Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is focusing on Biden, tax cuts and school choice in her reelection bid

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, speaks during a governor debate on Iowa PBS on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, at PBS studios in Johnston, Iowa.
Iowa PBS Pool Photo by Margaret Kispert/The Register
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, speaks during a governor debate on Iowa PBS on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, at PBS studios in Johnston, Iowa.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, is running for reelection this fall. On the campaign trail, she’s been talking a lot about President Joe Biden and why she thinks Iowa is better off than states run by Democrats.

“Let me tell you right here tonight, the likelihood of me not pushing back and giving up is a big fat zero, because the people of this state and our country are worth fighting for,” Reynolds said at her annual Harvest Festival earlier this month. “And I’m all in.”

IPR interviewed her Democratic opponent Deidre DeJearlast month, but Reynolds has declined to be interviewed. IPR has compiled Reynolds’ statements from public appearances, the one debate she agreed to, and past media availabilities to help inform voters about Reynolds’ plans for a potential second term as governor.

Reynolds on “pushing back” on Biden's policies

Reynolds has talked a lot about opposing Biden’s policies, including several pandemic relief programs. She rejected federal money that was meant for COVID testing in schools. She ended federal food and unemployment assistanceprograms early. Reynolds has also joined lawsuits against the Biden administration to try to stop vaccine mandates and student debt relief.

“Over the last two years, Washington has handed out so much money, that it’s often more profitable to stay home than to get a job,” Reynolds said at the Harvest Festival. “Now you get to pay off someone else’s student loan debt, even if they make more than you. You paid for your college. You decided not to go. You worked while you were going. But this governor that’s pushing back, we’re taking Biden to court. And boy, I’d like my own attorney general to help me do it.”

Reynolds contrasts hertax cuts and budget surplus with the federal government’s spending. But she has also had free rein to spend a massive amount of federal money on her priorities, including affordable housing programs, boosting tourism, expanding broadband access, funding child care initiatives, and much more. Reynolds has publicly celebrated her spending of that federal money, even though she opposed it at the start.

Reynolds highlights tax cuts, COVID policies on the campaign trail

“We trusted Iowans to do the right thing, and they did,” Reynold said at the Harvest Festival. “We rejected lockdowns and kept our businesses open and our kids in school. We cut taxes, repealed the inheritance tax and eliminated your tax on retirement income.”

Reynolds ordered schoolsand businesses to close when COVID-19 first hit Iowa, but she allowed those to reopen pretty quickly. The tax cuts she signed into law this year will start to take effect in January. Reynolds has also highlighted her new law thatcut the amount of time Iowans can receive unemployment benefits, and she often mentions that shebanned transgender women and girls from playing on women’s and girls’ school sports teams.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, pictured at her re-election campaign launch in March, has ousted GOP lawmakers who didn't support her proposed state-funded scholarships for private schools.
IPR News
Gov. Kim Reynolds had supporters holding "parents matter" signs at her reelection campaign launch event in March.

Reynolds on school choice

Reynolds says she wants parents to have more say in their children’s education. She has said that includes banning mask and COVID vaccinerequirements at schools. Reynolds ordered schools to offer 100% in-person instruction during the pandemic, before vaccines were available to everyone. She has also made it easierto start charter schools and transfer to other school districts.

Now, Reynolds is focused on pushing for state-funded scholarships for families to use on private school or homeschool expenses. She was unable to get enough Republican lawmakers on board to do that for the past two years. So, Reynolds got involved in primary elections, and helpedget some of the Republicans who opposed it out of the legislature.

“This is not a zero-sum game,” Reynolds said during a debate on Iowa PBS. “There is an opportunity to help all kids and to make our schools stronger. And I just fundamentally believe that choice should not only go to kids and families that have the resources. If education is truly the great equalizer, then everybody should have that choice.”

Reynolds has also said parents should get to send their kids to schools that align with their faith. Public school officials, Democrats and some Republicans have strongly opposed her plan. They say diverting money and kids away from public school districts will hurt public schools, especially in rural areas that are struggling with population loss.

Reynolds on abortion

Reynolds signed a bill into law in 2018 that was the strictest abortion law in the country at the time. It would ban abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected—as early as six weeks into pregnancy—with exceptions. That was struck down by a Polk County District Court judge at the time and never took effect.

Reynolds is nowasking the court to reconsider and let the ban take effect. But she hasn’t said publicly how far she’d be willing to go in terms of banning abortion. Reynolds took questions from reporters in late June, and IPR asked her what her ultimate goal is for abortion policy in the state.

“Well you know, we have the heartbeat bill on the books,” Reynolds said. “So let’s lift the injunction. And let’s make that, you know, a law, that it is. And so we’re going to start with that. We’re going to ask the Supreme Court to rehear the case. And we’re also going to ask the district court to lift the injunction. And we’ll take it from there.”

Reynolds has also said she "won't rest until every unborn Iowan is protected and respected." Her Democratic opponent Deidre DeJear says if elected, she would veto any abortion bans sent to her desk by lawmakers. DeJear also said she wants to codify the Roe v. Wade framework, which legalized abortions before a fetus could survive outside the womb.

Reynolds on inflation

Reynolds saysthe tax cuts she signed into law this year will help lessen the impact of inflation on Iowans. The cuts will start to take effect in January and will eventually bring the personal income tax to a flat 3.9%, end retirement income taxes and cut corporate taxes. Reynolds’ opponent Deidre DeJear says the $55 a month that many families will eventually get in the form of a tax cut doesn’t fix problems with the education and mental health systems.

“Talk to the working families that, you know, $50, $25, that matters to them,” Reynolds said during the Iowa PBS debate. “It makes a difference, especially as they’re seeing grocery prices skyrocket, what it costs to fill up your car, you take a look at utility bills, they’re increasing. So anytime that we can help Iowans keep more of their hard earned money, it does matter.”

Reynolds says revenue projections and the state’s record budget surplus show the tax cuts are sustainable. She said she isn’t done cutting taxes, but she hasn’t said what she’ll propose next.

DeJear has argued that the surplus shows the state is “hoarding” money while key services go underfunded. DeJear points out Reynolds is opposing student debt cancellation, even though that could also put money back in Iowans’ pockets during a time of high inflation.

Early voting runs through Nov. 7, and Election Day is Nov. 8.

IPR reporter Grant Gerlock contributed to this report.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter