Iowa Democrats targeted Gov. Kim Reynolds on an issue near and dear to her Thursday — the state's workforce.
In a trio of news conferences in eastern Iowa, party leaders and activists criticized the closure of workforce development offices across the state. Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said that 100,000 fewer Iowans got job training and placement assistance between 2010 and 2016.
"Yet this administration continues to cut funding for workforce centers," he said outside Scott County Democratic offices on West Locust Street in Davenport.
The state party pointed to annual reports from Iowa Workforce Development to back up its claims.
In 2011, then-Gov. Terry Branstad closed workforce development offices across the state, replacing them with self-help centers around the state. Branstad and then-Lt. Gov. Reynolds defended the new arrangement. The governor said it offered better access to services.
The Des Moines Register reported last year the kiosk system had largely been abandoned.
The Davenport workforce office still is open. But Democrats say the closure of the other offices, which they say have continued, led to job losses around the state, especially in rural Iowa.
Reynolds is running for re-election against Democrat Fred Hubbell.
The governor has said several times that improving the state's workforce is a top priority. She often touts an initiative to improve the education levels of Iowa's workforce called Future Ready Iowa. The goal of the initiative is to have 70 percent of Iowa's workforce to attain education or training beyond high school by 2025.
Reynolds' campaign issued a statement in response to the Democrats. In an email, Pat Garrett, a spokesman, praised the state's economy and renewed criticism of Hubbell, including for the closing of some Younkers stores when he ran the company from 1985 to 1992.
"Under Governor 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," Garrett said.