Janet Petersen

Democratic candidates for governor and other groups are quickly offering critiques of the Republican governor’s “condition of the state” message — faulting Kim Reynolds for failing to call for a minimum wage increase and accusing her of being hostile to unions.

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines is skeptical of the governor’s proposals on taxes and spending.

“She seemed really happy about the federal tax cuts,” Petersen told reporters after the governor’s speech. “My concern there is that all of those tax cuts benefitted millionaires and mega-companies across our country and we want to makes sure anything we’re doing on tax cuts benefits middle class Iowans.”

House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown credits Reynolds for admitting “mistakes were made” with the switch to having private companies manage care for Medicaid patients.

“We’ll see what is proposed for the fix,” Smiths said. “She also said that we should also continue with the system we have and that concerns me because we haven’t seen the results from that system that we’ve wanted to see.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell said since the savings from switching to privatized Medicaid are 80 percent less than projected, it’s time to “reverse” course. Senator Petersen said privatized Medicaid needs a complete overhaul.

“My belief is the Medicaid situation is like a totalled car and I don’t know how you fix a totalled car,” Petersen said. “You can’t just slap a coat of paint on it and call it good.”

Legislators from the GOP applauded the governor’s promise to fix the Medicaid system. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, the legislature’s top Republican, was emotional when asked about Reynolds being the first female to give the speech Iowa governors deliver every January.

“I thought it was a wonderful speech. I think it was very inspirational…I loved being here for the first one,” Upmeyer said, her voice cracking.

Upmeyer is joining the governor in praising women for coming forward to report sexual harassment, in the state capitol and “all over the country.”

“This is an issue that’s been brought out into the light in a very, very real way and I think everybody is sort of awakening that it’s time to fix this,” Upmeyer said, “and we’re certainly doing our part here.”

Upmeyer just hired a new human resources officer who will, among other things, investigate allegations of sexual harassment in the capitol. A Senate GOP staffer got a $1.75 million settlement after suing over a toxic work environment. A former senator brought in by the senate’s GOP leader in November has not yet released her report and recommendations.

Various groups held rallies in the statehouse after Reynolds’ speech. Advocates for public school teachers called the governor’s proposed 1.5 percent increase in general state aid to schools “miserly.” Union officials said the state is “in shambles” because of GOP leadership and Democrats are energized for the 2018 elections.