Gubernatorial candidates Fred Hubbell and Kim Reynolds outlined their policy positions, plans and vision for Iowa’s future in their first of three debates Wednesday.
The next two debates will take place on Oct. 17 in Sioux City and Oct. 21 in Davenport.
As one of the largest issues of both campaigns, the quality of Iowa’s mental and physical healthcare was one of the main discussions of Wednesday’s debate.
Hubbell criticized the privatization of Medicaid, which happened during Reynolds time as lieutenant governor and is a policy that Reynolds continues to support. Hubbell used examples of Iowans who have had their healthcare become more expensive.
“The medicaid costs are rising faster than they were before because of privatized medicaid,” Hubbell said. “[Reynolds] says it is working fine, it is not. It is getting worse and we need to do something much different.”
Reynolds said the current system in Iowa has been working better than the old system, calling it “irreversible” and “unstable.” She also said the current system, with the help of managed care organizations (MCO), has been helping Iowans get the care they need, and she told Hubbell he didn’t have an alternative plan to pay for healthcare.
“Are there areas we can do better, absolutely,” Reynolds said. “But it starts with making sure we have the money needed in the system. You’re just talking about everything people want to hear. You’re not talking about how you’re going to fund the [Medicaid] system going forward.”
Reynolds also pointed to bipartisan healthcare reforms passed during the last legislative session to change the state’s mental healthcare systems. Hubbell said Reynolds had been dodging the underlying problems within healthcare.
“She says it is working fine, it is not,” Hubbell said. “It is getting worse and we need to do something much different. You can’t defend your numbers, the costs are going up faster.”
One of Reynolds’ biggest campaign promises has been to continue and expand upon tax cuts passed by the Iowa Legislature, but she said Hubbell would look to take away these cuts which she said “are putting more money into Iowan’s pockets.”
While Hubbell did not say he would roll back the tax legislation passed last session, he said he would support tax cuts to the middle class and tax breaks for people of low income. He also said the tax cuts passed during the last session gave benefits predominately for the wealthy.
One of Hubbell’s biggest issues of the night — and the one issue he said he would not budge on — was fiscal responsibility. He called the tax cut irresponsible because of the incoming tariffs and trade wars, which he said have caused farmers in the state $2 billion in damages.
“This means more money out of education, healthcare and infrastructure,” Hubbell said.
Reynolds said Hubbell was not fiscally responsible as he didn’t have an alternative to keep the budget balanced.
In response, Hubbell said he had “been managing and balancing complicated budgets for 30 years.”
Hubbell also proposed targeting the state’s tax breaks for large businesses to stop “wasting” state money.
“We can balance the budget we are just throwing out tax credits to big businesses, it’s like throwing money out the window,” Hubbell said.
State of the economy
Reynolds said Iowa’s Economy is in a better state than it has been in 10 years, wages are rising and is in sharp contrast to the large deficit the state had been in when she and Gov. Terry Branstad took office.
“The budget is balanced, our reserves are full, we have a surplus of $127 million,” Reynolds said. “We need to let Iowans control more of their hard earned money.”
Reynolds then pivoted to how Hubbell would change this, saying he wants to raise taxes, would not support job growth and keeps promising people “money, money, money” without any way to get that money.
“We don’t print money in this state,” Reynolds said as the audience applauded.
Hubbell responded by saying the surplus is a result of mid-year cuts to education, healthcare and infrastructure spending in the state. He also brought up statistics later mentioned by the moderators that 37 percent of Iowans struggle to meet basic needs and live with little to no savings.
Hubbell said everyone was surprised by the surplus, including the governor and her staff.
“That is not fiscal responsibility,” Hubbell said. “People need predictability and good fiscal management. Every time we look at the numbers they are different.”
One of the first questions asked by the moderators was whether either candidate would continue to cut funding to regent universities and community colleges similarly to the mid year budget cuts occurring over the past three years.
Hubbell said he would “absolutely not” continue to lower funding for universities.
“If education is truly a priority of ours, then it will be reflected in our state budget,” Hubbell said.
Reynolds said the state would continue to invest in its priorities, with one being education. She then moved on to say Hubbell had been hypocritical for arguing against tax credits to fund things like education when he had been taking advantage of them through working with different companies for the last 40 years.