DES MOINES - Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Behn says he wants to create a business climate that will support good-paying jobs that will keep young people from leaving Iowa.
"I think the whole thing is about jobs and job creation," said Behn, 55, a Boone County grain farmer for 35 years. On Tuesday, the four-term state senator officially joined a growing field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.
Behn, who previously served as a county supervisor, said he is running to restore fiscal restraint to state government, improve the business climate, bring "common-sense" solutions to issues facing Iowa, and change the direction first-term Democratic Gov. Chet Culver has taken the state since January 2007.
"Right now, the state is facing a massive deficit because of excess spending. The common-sense answer is we need to cut spending," he said. "If we continue to overspend, there will be little alternatives other than a tax increase."
Behn said he supports reconvening the Iowa Legislature in special session yet this year to cut current state spending levels.
The District 24 senator, who represents Dallas and Boone counties, said as governor he would work to cut taxes and ease regulations to promote economic growth rather than try to use government incentives to spur development. He would keep tax credit programs, but not channel them through state board approval, and he would "be clear that our right-to-work law is here to stay."
Behn said he would address a projected imbalance in the state budget by eliminating the Grow Iowa Values Fund - a $50 million program that he says allows government to create jobs by picking winners and losers among businesses using taxpayers' dollars. He also would halt Culver's Power Fund - a $100 million commitment over four years to incent renewable energy projects.
To improve education in Iowa, Behn would inject more competition by expanding choices for parents to provide in-home instruction or creating K-12 scholarships with per-pupil state funding to use to attend public or private schools. Unused funds could be applied to college costs as incentive for parents to get the best educational deal for their children.
Turning to social issues, Behn said he supports allowing Iowans to vote on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. He also has called for using retention votes to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in April that Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional - a decision that removed legal hurdles to same-sex marriages.
Behn said he is a pro-life candidate who supports abortion restrictions and reinstating a stronger ban on human cloning. He also favors a limited death penalty for the commission or two or more capital offenses, but would sign a broad reinstatement of capital punishment.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan greeted Behn's formal entry into the 2010 GOP field by criticizing the Boone senator's opposition to Culver's bonding plan as saying "no" to helping disaster victims in Iowa, fixing aging infrastructure, and creating jobs in a tough economy.
"He's got a rude awakening ahead of him, though, when Iowans find out he has no new ideas, no plan for recovery, no support for economic stimulus and no idea how to lead this state," Kiernan said in a statement.