By Katie Dahlstrom
---- — CLINTON — Sen. Jack Hatch’s potential 2014 gubernatorial run led him to Clinton on Monday as part of his “conversations with Iowans” tour.
The Des Moines Democrat met with local elected officials and Democratic supporters at La Feria, where they discussed Hatch’s ideas for the state as he considers challenging five-term Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.
Hatch said his official campaign announcement will come in September.
“I’m going to come forward with ideas on how we can grow this nation, state and communities,” Hatch said. “This campaign is based on a conversation.”
Hatch, who is 63, is serving his third term in the Iowa Senate. He previously served five terms in the Iowa House, three years as Sen. Tom Harkin’s in-state director and had an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1996. He also owns Des Moines- and Cedar Rapids-area housing development company the Hatch Development Group.
During his Clinton visit, Hatch criticized Branstad’s performance as governor, pointing to a number of “missed opportunities” by the state leader such as promoting the Affordable Care Act, partnering with local municipalities and working with the state legislators.
“I think I can do more. As a senator and a businessman, I see real opportunities that are missed. The experiences I have had, the successes and the failures, are things I have learned from. We have to work together. There has to be a partnership,” he said.
Hatch explained that the Democrats’ decision to greenlight Branstad’s commercial property tax relief plan was part of an effort to get Medicaid expansion improved.
“I think we got a good deal,” he said.
The state senator went on to knock the tax credits that Orascom Construction Industries will receive from the Iowa Economic Development Authority for its fertilizer project in Lee County.
Specifically, Hatch lambasted Branstad for a letter that was sent to Orascom encouraging it to seek up to $100 million in tax credits from the state. The latest bump from the economic development authority brings the amount of tax credits the company will receive to $82.5 million.
“He’s like a Pac-Man gobbling up all our money,” Hatch said of Branstad. “He’s creating corporate wealth when what we need to be doing is creating more jobs.”
Hatch floated the idea of putting $100 million into something he called a “creative economy fund” that would be similar to Vision Iowa in that the state and would give money to local governments for projects.
“We could have so many more jobs created by working with communities. By partnering with communities they could create a new park, attraction or improve their downtown,” Hatch said.
When At-large City Councilman John Rowland asked Hatch what he would like to use the state’s $800 million surplus, Hatch cited a number of ideas. However, he said he wouldn’t single out an idea until he has made an official campaign announcement.