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Iowa House District 84 candidates face off in debate Thursday

GTNS photo by Grace KingIowa House District 84 candidates Republican Joe Mitchell, right, and Democrate Jason Moats, left, debated economic development, the workforce, healthcare and education on Thursday, Oct. 18 at Iowa Wesleyan University.
GTNS photo by Grace KingIowa House District 84 candidates Republican Joe Mitchell, right, and Democrate Jason Moats, left, debated economic development, the workforce, healthcare and education on Thursday, Oct. 18 at Iowa Wesleyan University.

Iowa House District 84 candidates faced off in a debate at Iowa Wesleyan University on Thursday, where they discussed topics ranging from economic development and the workforce to health care and education.

The candidates, Joe Mitchell (R) and Jason Moats (D), are vying for former legislator Dave Heaton’s seat in the November election.

Moats, 37, of Mt. Union, is a correctional trades leader at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility, where he does maintenance on the facility and teaches inmates electrical and plumbing in the apprenticeship program. Moats said he feels a duty to serve in the legislature for children, the elderly and disabled, those suffering from mental illness and the middle class.

Mitchell, 21, of Wayland, is a student at Drake University. He will graduate in December with a degree in business administration. Mitchell worked as a page in Des Moines and for Gov. Kim Reynolds and Senator Joni Ernst, where he gained experience in the legislature and wants to use the skills and networks he’s acquired to help southeastern Iowans.

District 84 includes Henry County and rural Washington, Jefferson and Lee counties.

This is what the candidates had to say about a few questions posed Thursday:

Tax cut legislation

The Iowa Legislature approved a bill in May to lower Iowans’ taxes by $2.1 billion over the next six years, end federal deductibility, create sales taxes on digital goods and services and reduce individual and corporate income tax.

Moats: “We’ve seen a lot of tax breaks for large corporations, some of them outside of the state. I feel like some of our services are starving. Take education for one, we gave these tax breaks before they even considered funding education. I want to study where our taxes are actually going. We need to look at that and see where we can pull from, put toward education and other services needed in this state.”

Mitchell: “I think the tax reform bill that passed in the Legislature this past session was actually a great bill. Before that we had some of the highest taxes in the Midwest, which doesn’t make us competitive with other states. With the tax bill, when it’s all said and done, when we meet the requirements for revenue, a single mom with two kids, she’ll be saved $900 a year, which I think is great. Anytime we can put your hard-earned money back in your pocket, the government should do that.”

Medicaid privatization

Former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad ordered Iowa follow other states in hiring national companies to administrate its Medicaid program in 2015. Since then, controversy over whether taxpayers are saving money by the privatization of Medicaid has persisted.

Moats: “We all can agree this (Medicaid) is a mess, and trying to make it look any better than it is like trying to put lipstick on a pig, it just don’t belong … More of our tax dollars are going to these private companies. We need to change that. Our hospitals are not being paid back, our disabled are not getting the funding they need, our elderly are being starved.”

Mitchell: “What the Legislature has tried to do … is put oversight bills on these manage care operations to make sure they are giving the quality care to our citizens they deserve. The oversight bill we passed this last legislative is going to try to smooth the bumps in the road, but I’m all for putting more government oversight on the managed care operations to make sure that they’re putting people over profits.”

IPERS

IPERS, or the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, is the state’s largest public employees’ pension program. Although Gov. Reynolds has said she won’t slash retirement benefits earned by state and local government workers and teachers, there has been talk of changes to the program, which has 350,000 members.

Moats: “IPERS is a retirement system that people spend most of their career putting toward. The discussion of changing it over to a defined contribution is wrong … If we take away IPERS, we’re going to affect sheriff’s departments, teachers, correctional officers, DOTs who keep our roads clean. It’s going to affect … one out of every 10 citizens.”

Mitchell: “I think IPERS is something I’m going to protect and stays the way it is. I think it’s a sustainable system right now. It is 82 percent funded, and I wouldn’t change it.”

Fields of opportunity

Moats: “Quite honestly I see a lot of students heading out of state for better wages. There isn’t a whole lot here. Eight years ago, I moved down here for the cost of living. It was cheaper where I was born and raised. Today, I’m paying double what I was when I bought my house for eight years ago. When the cost of living and taxes are raised, and the minimum wage is low, education is being underfunded, there isn’t a whole lot here. We need to change that. We need to bring up minimum wage, fund our schools, we need to do better.”

Mitchell: “There is a reason why I’m moving back here after getting my degree from Drake. A lot of my friends from Drake are moving to Chicago and Denver and Dallas and all these bigger cities. I want to come back here, though, because there’s unique opportunities here. I don’t know anywhere else in the U.S. a 21-year-old kid can rep the state Legislature. There’s plenty of job opportunities around here.”