Staff Editorial

Q&A: Nate Boulton stands up for working families

Nate Boulton, a candidate for governor who currently serves in Iowa Senate District 16, speaks at the Linn County Democrats convention at the Kirkwood Community College Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha on Saturday, March 24, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Nate Boulton, a candidate for governor who currently serves in Iowa Senate District 16, speaks at the Linn County Democrats convention at the Kirkwood Community College Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha on Saturday, March 24, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The Gazette’s editorial board is meeting with Democratic candidates for governor ahead of the June 5 primary. Although we don’t make endorsements in party primaries, we will be publishing issue Q&As with the candidates on several Sundays before the vote. This week, we’re featuring state Sen. Nate Boulton, an attorney from Des Moines.

• WHY ARE YOU RUNNING?

“I’m running for governor for the same reasons I ran for the state Senate. I want to see Iowa make sure we’re doing all we can to help working families advance and improve their quality of life. And unfortunately in these past two years I think we have gone down a direction exactly the opposite of that. I’m proud to have stood up against some of the things that I think are a direct assault on quality of life for working families,” Boulton said.

Editor’s note: The Gazette’s editorial board is meeting with Democratic candidates for governor ahead of the June 5 primary. Although we don’t make endorsements in party primaries, we will be publishing issue Q & As with the candidates on several Sundays before the vote.

“But really the moment I decided to get into this race was toward the end of last session I was in my Senate chair and looked at the yes-no buttons at my desk and said, ‘Am I going to do everything I can to make sure we’re pushing forth a vision for Iowa’s future that I want to say yes to, or am I going to be in a position where I’m here in two years regretting that I didn’t do everything I could, pressing that no button.’ That’s what really crystallized it for me.”

• HOW WOULD YOU APPROACH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?

Boulton said he would seek to rein in a long list of tax credits and exemptions for businesses that has grown rapidly over the past decade.

“One of the things that I’m just jarred by is the failure to target a lot of these programs, to limit, to cap, to be strategic about it,” Boulton said, citing a sales tax exemption for manufacturers that turned out to be four times more costly than initial estimates.

“The commercial property tax exemption would be another one, rather than a certain level of exemption where we say the first $300,000 or $400,000 of value is exempt, this was a blanket proposal. We’re underwriting massive profits for high-rise developments and nobody’s rent went down. I think we just have to be smarter about these things,” Boulton said.

• WHAT ABOUT THE RESEARCH ACTIVITIES CREDIT WHICH ROCKWELL COLLINS CITES AS A REASON FOR KEEPING R&D IN IOWA?

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“I think we have the conversation. But I think the reality is if I stand at the front of the room handing out $5 bills to people, they’re going to keep coming up and taking them whether they need them or not. We just have to be strategic about these things,” Boulton said.

“One thing I say often on the campaign trail is I really believe when we get too far into a transactional economic approach, where we are out there saying we’re going to give you these coupons in exchange for you coming here or staying here, we end up in quicksand,” Boulton said. “And that’s beneath Iowa. We have been a state that’s offered a skilled, educated, productive workforce employers want to come to, and be part of a quality of life that they want to enjoy.”

• WHAT’S YOUR EDUCATION AGENDA?

“I see two or three basic core threats to the future of education in Iowa,” said Boulton, who pointed to Republican-backed legislation in 2017 to curtail teachers’ collective bargaining rights, threats to public pensions and inadequate state funding.

“If right now, we have told every 22-year old with a teaching license they’re never going to see a pay increase that will keep up with inflation, they’ll have less and less of a voice in their health insurance and other benefits … They’re going to be placed in a classroom that for the last eight years has been underfunded below the rate of inflation … They’re likely to have higher debt loads because of our failure to adequately support our state universities. I think it’s going to be a real struggle for the next generation to go into a rural Iowa school district and start their profession,” Boulton said.

“There are key players in the legislative process who do want to see major changes that would threaten the security of IPERS for public employees, particularly our teachers …. If we undermine that, we eliminate a key incentive that is keeping teachers in the profession,” Boulton said.

Boulton also said state higher education institutions need more funding, but a more than $1 billion GOP tax cut plan will make that difficult.

“When you look at what $1 billion in lost revenue could mean, ending all state support for Iowa, Iowa State, UNI, the community colleges, the Iowa Tuition Grant for our private colleges, getting out of funding higher education altogether, it still doesn’t get us to the $1 billion,” Boulton said.

• HOW WOULD YOU RESTORE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES?

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“Rather than just restore those lost rights, the conversation should shift to where it should have been before, to expanding the scope of bargaining to include critical topics like protective equipment for firefighters on a fire call … and staffing ratios for corrections officers,” Boulton said.

• HOW WOULD YOU FIX PROBLEMS WITH PRIVATIZED MEDICAID?

Boulton said he co-sponsored legislation to end current contracts with private managed care firms and return Medicaid to state management in six months.

“I think we have to transition out of it,” said Boulton, insisting Iowa would not simply return to the previous fee-for — service system. “Fee-for-service was not just a perfect system before. We want to find long-term solutions and do it the right way.”

• IS SIX MONTHS ENOUGH TIME?

“We have learned from the last process as well as the system we had before, so we’re not completely reinventing the wheel. We want to make sure we’re not leaving people out there hanging in the system without adequate access to the services they need,” Boulton said.

Boulton also favors legislation allowing more Iowa families to purchase Hawk-i children’s health insurance through a buy-in program.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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