Issues

Every Iowan, Every Iowa Community

Iowa is a collection of dynamic and diverse communities, but too often economic opportunities, access to health care, and critical quality of life services are limited to only certain parts of the state. That disparity has only grown in recent years as rural Iowans, small businesses, and small farmers have been overlooked or forgotten altogether. In the process, our economy has suffered and wage growth has declined. Simply put, Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds’ approach has failed. We need a new direction with a new governor that represents and fights for all Iowans, prioritizes people over corporations, and results over ideology.

I am running to be a governor for every Iowan and every Iowa community.

My plan will help our state achieve excellence in education, grow Iowa’s wages, provide greater access to high-quality, affordable health care, and help the state succeed in an increasingly complex economic environment.  But more than anything else, my commitment is to work hard for all of Iowa – rural, small towns and larger communities.  We must stop leaving too many Iowans behind.

 

 

 

HEALTH CARE: Expanding Access and Delivering High-Quality, Local Services

 

Iowa families are struggling with dramatic increases in health care premiums and services that are less accessible with each passing year. The debate in Washington D.C. threatens to make these challenges even greater particularly for rural communities where longstanding health care providers are under significant financial strain. Here in Iowa, Governor Reynolds fails to even acknowledge her role in limiting health care for hundreds of thousands of our neighbors. The result is more uncertainty for Iowa families, more preventable health care emergencies, and more money out of the pockets of hard working Iowans.

Here is where we start:

  • Ending a Tragic Failure: On his first day in office, Norris will end the privatization of Medicaid and begin the process of transitioning the program back to a state administered system. More than half a million Iowans are seeing lower quality care and reduced benefits that are less accessible in their communities. Providers have seen delayed and denied payments for the health care services they are delivering. Even the private out-of-state insurance companies administering the program have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. This program has failed and it’s far past time to do something about it.
  • Restore Retroactive Eligibility in Iowa’s Medicaid Program: Last year, Republicans in Iowa and Washington D.C. eliminated “retroactive eligibility” that allows Iowans receive health care coverage through Medicaid in the three months leading up to being officially declared eligible for the program. As a result, more Iowans are forced to either pay for services out of pocket or delay receiving care and risk even greater health care challenges. Also, as the Iowa Hospital Association noted, this action “will affect the financial stability of Iowa’s hospitals, especially in rural areas.” As governor, Norris will restore retroactive eligibility so that we once again prioritize the lives of those living in rural Iowa and the dedicated providers who are delivering essential health care services locally.
  • Provide the funding and training necessary to expand community based services across all Iowa communities. By having more mental health care professionals at the local level, we will be able to address health care challenges before they reach a crisis point.
  • Support Innovative Health and Wellness Programs: Many rural health care providers are developing new and innovative programs to meet the needs of those within their community. For example, the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital established the Family Resource Center to provide critical support services for local families, including child play groups, parenting classes, outpatient mental health and counseling services, and more. As governor, Norris will direct additional resources to these efforts and others around the state to help improve health care outcomes and encourage providers to continue innovating.
  • Supporting Iowa’s Rural Hospitals: Iowans in every corner of the state depend on our network of rural hospitals and health clinics. These facilities are not only critical to the health and well-being of the community, they are also among the largest local employers as well. With significant percentages of its patients receiving coverage through Medicare or Medicaid, the financial bottom lines of these providers are always razor thin. With Congress considering cuts to Medicaid and Governor Reynolds’ privatized Medicaid program delaying or denying payments, these financial challenges have grown tremendously in recent months. As governor, Norris will establish a critical response team to help facilities in rural communities when significant financial challenges arise. This team of state and local officials, health care experts, and more will serve as the backstop against the closure of any rural hospital to help ensure residents in all Iowa communities continue to have access to high-quality, local health care.

 

EDUCATION: Creating Opportunities and Growing Iowa’s Economy

Increasing wages, particularly in rural communities, starts with investing in our schools. Iowa cannot expect to be competitive and maintain a skilled workforce if we ask our Pre-K-12 classrooms to find cuts year-after-year, slash funding for community colleges, and continue to demand higher tuition rates for students attending our colleges and universities.  The current approach is unsustainable and long-term will place Iowa’s workforce at a disadvantage compared to other states in the Midwest and across the country. By continuing down this path, more companies will leave Iowa and fewer will choose to locate here regardless of the tax incentives we offer.

Here is where we start:

  • Expand early learning programs that are so critical to the development of our young people. With nearly half of our students coming from homes in poverty or very low income we must include life skills and resiliency training with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty for too many Iowa families.
  • Prioritize Pre-K-12 education funding so that Iowa students have access to the materials, technologies, resources, and programs to drive academic growth and spur the creativity of our young people.
  • Create new Iowa education grant to provide assistance to any Iowan who decides to pursue a degree in a high-demand field at one of our regent’s institutions, community or private colleges. This approach will improve our state’s workforce and encourage businesses to locate here in Iowa.
  • Treat our teachers and public employees like the professionals they are and allow them to negotiate their salary, benefits, and other elements of their employment.

 

AGRICULTURE: Iowa’s Farming Future Depends On Sustainability and Diversification

Iowa’s heritage is agriculture.  Our love for and relationship with the land runs deep in our culture with thousands of Iowans working to produce the food, fuel, and products that we depend on every day.  But, we know that agriculture is always changing and today we are at a critical crossroads that will impact rural communities, our economy and our land for decades to come. We need to ensure the changes made are towards sustainability but that will only happen if we have the will to make it happen.  As your governor, I will work with farmers to make Iowa agriculture productive, sustainable and profitable.  Today, outside interests are making Iowans choose between these values but I believe it’s time we support and empower farmers to not have to make a choice but to realize all three.

What is emerging today in Iowa’s agricultural sector resembles far too much the extraction industry where natural resources are mined for the profits of a few, and often out-of-state corporate interests, and the damage left behind becomes the responsibility of everyone else to pay for the cleanup.  Current policies have encouraged industrial-scale commodity and livestock production, which has created an unsustainable system in Iowa that damages our environment and public health, forces family farmers off the land, and undermines the vitality of our rural communities.

Our incredible topsoil is eroding at an alarming rate as trees, waterways and wetlands are bulldozed to extinction.  When the external costs of cleaning up our water, the devaluation of neighboring property and the adverse impact on tourism and quality of life are taken into account, the price we are paying is simply too high.

We must begin today to plan for our agricultural future by taking aggressive measures to diversify our crops for the markets of the future and practice sustainable farming to preserve our most valuable natural resources.  Our vehicle fleet in the U.S. will likely be half or more electric vehicles in the next 15 to 20 years, significantly decreasing the demand for ethanol.  More countries are increasing production of corn and other commodities and President Trump’s trade policies threaten access to foreign markets. These factors will very likely lead to a reduction in demand with prices for corn and soybeans continuing to fall below the cost of production.  

Iowa needs a different approach that allows us to maintain our leadership position in agriculture and at the same time improves the quality of life across all our communities. I know we can do this because I’ve lived it. I grew up in southwest Iowa on my family’s farm.  Family farms are like small family businesses – they are part of the community, committed to the wellbeing of their neighbors, and supportive of preserving the natural resources of the state. As governor, I will fight to bring this approach back to Iowa so that we can grow and produce in a sustainable way.

Here is where we start:

Investing in Public Research:

We need to support our farmers with world class, public research.  Science and innovation are the keys to developing an agricultural system that succeeds economically and protects our state’s environment and natural resources.  Governor Reynolds and Republican legislators have failed to support public research at Iowa State University and as a result, agribusiness has captured our land-grant university to serve themselves instead of farmers.  The effort among Republicans to defund the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University is the exact opposite of how we can achieve a sustainable future for farming. Instead we should be doubling Leopold funding.

By increasing the state’s investment in the public research, we can identify and implement better and more efficient farming practices that will enable farmers to rebuild soil health while increasing profitability and protect our water.  We need to support and lead when it comes to innovations in agriculture. This type of approach helped expand practices such as cover crops, rotational grazing, and reduced tillage that have created a more productive, sustainable approach to farming. Let’s recommit as a state to driving and embracing innovation to create a truly 21st Century approach to agriculture.

A Real Strategy for Water Quality:

The problem with water quality is undeniable and it has reached a crisis level. Decades of over-application of fertilizer has created the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico and now it’s reaching hazardous levels in Iowa.  Last year alone, more than 4.6 million tons of fertilizer was applied on Iowa farmland.  Accelerated runoff from fields with no cover crops or buffer strips leads to extremely high levels of nitrogen and nitrates that threaten public health. As a result, the municipal water systems need to remove the nitrates, greatly increasing operational costs when much of the problem can be managed at the source, specifically the farm fields themselves.

As governor, I will ensure that appropriate resources are invested to address this critical public health issue. First and foremost, we need to direct far more federal, state and local funds to the nutrient reduction strategy. This program brings together policymakers, farmers, and scientists to identify and implement strategies that reduce farming nutrients in our water. The scale of the problem will require a significant and longstanding commitment from the state that is simply not being considered at the statehouse this year.

Getting farmers to either reduce fertilizer use or adopt practices that reduce runoff and soil erosion is critical. To that end, the state needs to seriously consider policy that not only encourages good practices, but also discourages practices that diminish water quality such as assessing a surcharge on fertilizer and farm chemicals used in the state and direct those funds back to farmers who are utilizing these more sustainable practices.  As your governor, I will also advocate for federal policies that make assistance to farmers contingent upon meeting enforceable, sustainable farming and land conservation practices.

This legislative session, Governor Reynolds is advancing a half measure that will not address many of the systemic problems that are undermining the safety and quality of our water. Her proposal does not set meaningful goals, does not measure results, and does not allow the state to hold anyone accountable. This is not a strategy. It’s an effort on her part to dodge a tough political issue going into an election year and we should expect more from our elected leaders.

Responsible Livestock Operations

The livestock industry is important to Iowa. However, exporting meat and poultry at the expense of our family farmers and communities and the degradation of our environment is not progress. Livestock and crop production need to be integrated.  Reversing the current trend toward the separation of the two is critical for a sustainable, ecological balance. Better animal welfare, better water quality, greater soil health and greater profitability for Iowa farmers can and must be achieved. 

As governor, I will support a moratorium on confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) until we can bring together all stakeholders to establish a completely new Master Matrix framework that protects our environment, landowners and communities.  The lack of any real or enforceable regulations in the current Master Matrix has resulted in polluted waterways, undermined land values for those living in rural communities, degraded local lands, and discouraged tourism.

Republicans say they believe in local control, but they continue to stand in the way of allowing individual communities to establish their own regulations or limits when it comes to CAFOs. As governor, I will work to give local control to county governments and citizens to set limits above the statewide regulations on CAFO’s.  We must empower local governments to respond to situations such as the impact of CAFO’s on tourism and other local economic factors as well as unique geological conditions where animal waste run-off threatens underground aquifers and surface water sources for drinking water and recreation.

Encouraging Family Farms

Our goal must be a profitable agricultural economy made up of diverse family farm operations.  Profits from a statewide sustainable farming network should benefit our farmers, our communities and all of Iowa. If that is lost, an important part of our state’s economic fabric will be permanently torn.  Iowa’s farm fields cannot simply be split up among large corporations if we expect to maintain strong, safe, and vibrant communities. As governor, I will promote policies and programs to encourage and enable future generations of Iowans to choose farming.

 

CHILDREN: Childcare and Early Childhood Education Policy

Quality childcare is a critical component for the success of Iowa families, businesses and our overall economy but today the state is failing to meet the challenge.  We must make a greater commitment in supporting and expanding quality childcare because it is an investment in our future that will pay us back many times over.

Of course, this is just one part of an overall challenge we face as income inequality grows and some communities are overlooked when it comes to new state-level investments.  According to the United Way’s statewide “ALICE Report,” more than 30% of Iowa households who work, earn and pay taxes are unable to meet basic needs.  Breaking the cycle of poverty for hundreds of thousands of Iowans must be a priority for our state and I believe childcare is a key component.

So much of success in adulthood is predicated on how a child develops and the skills they learn early in life. The foundation of an individual’s intellectual, emotional, and social development is in many ways shaped before the age of five. With so much at stake for families and the state as a whole, we should empower parents and provide them with the resources, programs, and assistance they need to ensure their children succeed and thrive throughout their lives.

It’s also important to point out that childcare and early childhood education impacts all Iowans and the health of our economy. The lack of affordable childcare contributes to our serious workforce shortage. Parents struggle to enter or remain in the workforce when they routinely experience difficulty in identifying local childcare and early childhood education programs. The lack of affordable childcare also leaves a gap in the skills development for our children and their future economic success. If we are not able to sustain a highly educated, highly trained community of workers, Iowa will be far less competitive long-term and our economy will suffer as a result as businesses choose to locate elsewhere. This is one of the most pressing challenges facing our state and one we can’t avoid any longer.

Here is where we start.

Expanding Access to High-Quality, Affordable Childcare

Today, the state of Iowa provides support for low-income and working families to cover part of the costs associated with childcare. This support structure gives parents the ability to work and the peace of mind knowing their child is cared for during the day. However, many parents encounter a “cliff effect” that puts this equation at risk. When a single parent’s wages reach $11.15 per hour, they no longer qualify for any childcare assistance at all.

These hard working parents face increased challenges in sending their son or daughter to a high-quality childcare service and a greater likelihood they will be stuck in a cycle of poverty without any meaningful way of breaking out.  It’s simply not fair that so many Iowans continue to fall further and further behind no matter how hard they work. As governor, I will eliminate the cliff effect by increasing the annual income limit where individuals can receive benefits. Additionally, I will create a stair step approach to ensure those with the greatest need receive the greatest level of support.

The lack of high-quality, affordable childcare impacts virtually every community, but rural Iowa is particularly susceptible to this challenge. As a result, it is also critical for the state, counties, and cities to work with businesses to establish public-private partnerships that can invest together to expand childcare options at the local level. These partnerships can help identify and address gaps where they exist. For example, some communities may have particular needs for additional childcare options during certain times of the day, over the weekend, or the evening. By giving local communities more opportunities and resources to assess those needs, we can create greater flexibility and productivity in the workplace. The result is good for families and businesses alike. Utilizing an approach similar to the Vision Iowa program, the state can leverage grants, loans, forgivable loans, and loan guarantees to spur investments by local governments, businesses and non-profit organizations to close gaps in childcare services.

Supporting Iowa families and growing our economy through early learning

Study after study indicates that early childhood education is the most important factor when it comes to the successful development of a young person and a community’s long-term economic success. With so much at stake for families and the state as a whole, our goal should be to expand opportunities for our children to succeed by ensuring they are prepared when they enter our K-12 schools and for parents to realize the dignity of being able to work and support their family.

As governor, I will reinstitute and expand Iowa’s universal preschool initiative that benefitted thousands upon thousands of early learners, but was cut when Governor Branstad came back into office in 2011. This initiative helps provide three and four year olds with the skills necessary to achieve at a high level and helps improve Iowa’s economic outlook by building a stronger workforce over the long-term. Cutting this program was shortsighted, unnecessary, and limited access to critical early learning programs for families across the state. We can do better. 

Ensuring all Iowa children have health insurance

At the end of last year, President Trump and Congressional Republicans very clearly revealed their priorities to the American people. Their tax reform bill provided billions in handouts to the wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest corporations. However, at the same time, they failed to address the looming crisis of nine million American children losing the health insurance they currently receive through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If we can’t count on Congress and the White House to take the most basic steps to protect our most vulnerable populations, then the state of Iowa needs to step up. As governor, I will provide state dollars to ensure the 42,000 Iowa children who are enrolled in this program continue to have high-quality coverage and access to Iowa’s exceptional network of medical providers. I refuse to stand on the sidelines and watch as Republicans in Washington DC endanger Iowa children and produce terrible health outcomes across all our communities.

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Reasonable and Commonsense Gun Laws

My wife Jackie and I have three middle school children and we send them off to school every day, and to think of them not coming home is too difficult to comprehend. Our children should be able to go to school to learn and not live in fear of gun violence. We should all be able to attend church, concerts, and movies without fear of being killed. It is time for reasonable and common sense gun laws and it’s time for the will of the people to overcome the power of special interests in our government.

Here is where we start:

  • Thorough universal background checks and limits on where guns can be carried – no courthouses, no public buildings, and especially, no schools and close the gun show loophole.

  • Enact laws that will allow intervention when a person is known to have access to, or possession of guns is showing signs of violence or unstable behavior.

  • Ban on bump stocks, high capacity magazines, and any other modification devices that allow otherwise legal firearms to be converted to function like automatic weapons, and a ban on high-powered assault weapons

  • We need to put in place a children's mental health system. Right now Iowa has nothing to help the one in five children who will have some form of mental illness. This is impacting the safety of our children, schools and the ability of teachers to help all our children reach their highest potential.

  • Leaders with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and manufacturers who manufacture fear for their own personal gain.

  • Fight back against Republicans who have been pushing an amendment to our state constitution that would prevent us from taking virtually any step to enact reasonable, common sense gun limitations.

  • Protect our children from unintentional gun deaths. Kim Reynolds blocked regulations proposed by the Department of Human Services to require daycare facilities to lock away guns and inform parents if a gun is kept on premises. Parents should absolutely have the right to know if guns are present, and if so, locked away and unobtainable to their children. This was outrageous pandering to the gun lobby.

ELDER CARE & AGING: An Older Iowans Agenda

Today there are half a million Iowans providing unpaid caregiving services to Iowa’s increasingly older population. While that certainly demonstrates the overwhelming generosity of Iowans and our commitment to put family first, it also reveals a growing population who may not be able to participate in the economy as fully as they would want. The result is reduced personal income and diminished savings for the individual plus slower economic growth and persistent workforce shortages for the state.

Part of what is driving this trend is the mismanagement and misplaced priorities of Governor Kim Reynolds. Through a series of reckless decisions, Governor Reynolds and her administration have left older Iowans more vulnerable and with far fewer services than at any point in recent memory. This has dramatically increased the private caregiving needs in the state and forced many Iowans to take on these responsibilities rather than see a loved one fall through the cracks.

Funding cuts for the Department on Aging and the Area Agencies on Aging have created waiting lists for critical services such as home delivered meals. Similar funding cuts for the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman have eliminated essential investigations into nursing home conditions and prevented state officials from examining serious complaints. The privatization of Medicaid has created a new, complicated bureaucracy where legitimate health care needs are denied, delayed, or ignored.

Facing all this, it is no wonder that an Iowan would choose to take on new caregiving responsibilities to spare their mother or father a potentially dangerous and unregulated situation. Of course, making that choice often requires reducing the hours they dedicate to their jobs or the difficult choice to leave that job altogether. As a state, we should not force our neighbors to make these types of impossible decisions. Iowa can do better and that is one of the reasons I am running for governor.

Here's where we start.

We need to expand critical services and oversight necessary to ensure the highest quality of care for our older citizens across all of our communities. Enabling older Iowans to remain in their homes as long as feasible for a better quality of life should be our priority.  High-tech monitoring systems can help seniors age in place independently, while giving family members peace of mind in the process. What’s more, home-based tech tools could be far less expensive than moving into assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

We need to directly address the growing crisis in our long-term care workforce. The lack of home care aides, certified nurse aides, and personal care attendants are undermining the quality of care Iowans receive. Iowa simply cannot afford to continue experiencing the 60% turnover in this workforce every year.  Direct care workers must be able to earn a living wage. These are too often low paying jobs resulting in challenges not only in providing for older Iowans but also in workers’ ability to support their own family. Childcare benefits often evaporate as wages go up forcing these Iowans to choose between continuing to work or providing the necessary care for a child. As governor, I will fight to ensure no Iowan has to make that decision.

Growing Iowa’s economy requires innovative solutions across the board. We have the opportunity today to make smart, long-term investments to care for our aging population and at the same time unlock new economic opportunities for all Iowans across all 99 counties.