Branstad has an opportunity

Six years ago, Iowa voters brought Terry Branstad, then already a four-term former governor, out of retirement because the Hawkeye State faced woes so severe that a proven leader was needed in the governor’s chair.

The record of Branstad’s fifth and sixth terms has proven that decision to have been wise.

In 2010, the Iowa economy was sluggish, unemployment was uncomfortably high and state government finances were a mess. Today the situation is much improved.

Despite major accomplishments, the governor has been limited in his ability to shape the Hawkeye State’s future by the fact that Republicans did not control both branches of the Legislature. Now as a result of election victories by the GOP in races across the state that situation is about to end. In January, Republicans will be in charge of both the Iowa Senate and Iowa House of Representatives.

That means that the upcoming Condition of the State speech in January could well be one of the most important of Branstad’s long and impressive political career. For the first time since reclaiming the governor’s chair, he will be able to advance an agenda that has a good chance of being substantially accepted by the Legislature. In the past, many of the governor’s proposals faced almost certain defeat in the Senate unless they were altered significantly to win support by at least some Democrats.

Obviously, there may be some disagreements among GOP lawmakers about precisely how the state should proceed. Even so, the political environment is much more hospitable to Branstad’s leadership than at any time since his return to power.

That’s good news for Iowa. It is an opportunity for Branstad to draw on his unparalleled knowledge of our state and its huge potential to craft an innovative and ambitious game plan for the years ahead.

We have long supported this governor because of his common sense and wise analysis of what our state needs to prosper. He has the chance in 2017 to put forward proposals that could shape the state’s course far into the future.

Branstad should make aggressive use of this moment. He is already one of the state’s most successful governors. In 2017, he has the possibility of making that exceptional record of accomplishment even more remarkable. It’s an opportunity we hope he will use skillfully.