By the Daily Gate City
The Daily Gate City continues its six-part series on the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Iowa Senate from the 42nd District, the Iowa House of Representative from the 83rd District and the Lee County Board of Supervisors from District 5.
Questionnaires were sent to each of the six major party candidates.
The response from Democrat Rich Taylor, who is seeking the Senate seat formerly held by retiring state Sen. Gene Fraise, follows:
Why are you running for the senate?
Politicians haven’t done a very good job with our economy in Southeast Iowa. Des Moines has forgotten about Southeast Iowa and I want to ensure that the people here have a voice in Des Moines again.
Just last week, Siemens announced huge layoffs because politicians in Washington cannot come to a compromise on the budget. I care deeply about the people of Southeast Iowa. These are people’s jobs – their families depend on them. No one should be playing games. I was a blue collar worker my whole life, and I think working people like me need a voice in the Legislature. That is why I am running.
What qualifications do you have to serve in the senate?
First, I great up in a working class family and my parents taught me to care about those around me. I have lived my entire life in Southeast Iowa, and I care deeply about the people here.
Second, I am a good listener. You have to know the challenges that people are facing. To do that you must visit with people on their front porch and hear what they have to say. That’s what I’ve been doing for many months now – knocking on doors in all the communities in my district, from Keokuk to Brighton, from Lockridge to New London, and everything in between.
Third, I think you need to be willing to work with anyone who has a good idea, regardless of their party affiliation. The “no compromise” approach of the extremists in our government today accomplishes exactly one thing: nothing! I want to get something done for Southeast Iowans. I am willing to listen and willing to work together to solve Iowa’s problems.
What would be your top 3 priorities as a state senator?
Job creation, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and making government more accountable to the people.
Should the state increase its tax on gasoline to provide more revenue for roads and bridges? Why or why not? If yes, how much of an increase?
I would want to look at all other options before even considering raising the gas tax and taking more money away from hardworking Iowans. In rural Iowa, transporting goods to market is a critical component of our agricultural economy. Our roads and bridges are in rough shape and we can no longer afford to ignore this problem. The Legislature has not had the political courage to raise revenues for bridge and road repair for over 20 years. During this time, our infrastructure has continued to crumble. I know there have been studies recommending an 8 cent to 10 cent per gallon increase. However, I think because of the economic challenges Iowa families face today, we can address critical infrastructure repairs with a much lower increase, but only after all other options have been exhausted.
Is the public/private partnership in the state’s economic development effort working? If not, how should the state change its approach?
Public/private partnerships have worked for many Main Street businesses. However, they have also made some deals that have raised plenty of eyebrows, such as the fertilizer plant coming here to Lee County. The state has given $110 million in state tax incentives and $133 million in local property tax abatements for 20 years. I am happy that this will bring 165 permanent jobs to the area, but well over $1 million per permanent job is a steep price to pay. There should have been a lot more public input into this project instead of being done behind closed doors.
I intend to make public/private partnerships in the state’s economic development efforts more transparent, so that public has the opportunity to know about deals before they are finalized.
Should the state reform public education in grades K-12? If so, what changes would you like to see and how would the state pay for them?
Reform, fix, improve – whatever the term you want to use, we must do something to reverse the current trend happening in our public education system. Public education standards are falling, grades are slipping and tuition is going up. I am open to ideas on how to get this done. Whatever ideas we use, they need to be proven means of effectively raising student performance. We are failing our students and cannot afford to do so. We should be investing in their future so that they can contribute to Iowa’s economy and compete in the world.
As for paying for improvements to our education system, we have a $1 billion budget surplus, which could be used to provide the education that our children deserve.
Should the collective bargaining rights of public employees be changed? If so, how?
No. Nothing should be done to weaken the current collective bargaining rights enjoyed by public employees.
How important is the spread of high speed Internet through rural areas of the state?
This is critically important. Commerce is no longer confined to rivers and highways. In order to ensure that Iowa is competitive with neighboring states, we must make sure that high-speed Internet service is available no matter where you live in Iowa. This is important, not only to commerce, but also to the everyday lives of Iowans. High-speed Internet allows us to stay informed and educated about everyday events and allows us to stay connected to our communities and loved ones.
Any other comments? Please keep them brief.
I am not a politician. I have lived in Southeast Iowa my entire life. I grew up in Henry County, served in the Iowa National Guard and worked for the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. When I ask for your vote, it is because I want go to Des Moines and make government work for you.