116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Jessica Wiskus, 46, of Lisbon, is the Democratic candidate for Senate District 42 in the Nov. 8 general election. Wiskus, who is seeking her first term in elected office, is a university researcher.
The Gazette posed a set of questions to all area statehouse candidates. Below is the transcript of Wiskus’ answers. Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What do you think are the three most important issues the state is facing? What would you do to address them?
Wiskus: The most important issue facing the state is lack of leadership that understands how to uphold the common good. Right now, we see a lot of political theater — blustering, shouting, obscene gestures — from legislators who bring to Des Moines a national partisan agenda that doesn’t reflect who we are as Iowans. Iowans know how to set differences aside and work together. What we need in Des Moines are leaders who seek out the common good. It’s not about Democrats. It’s not about Republicans. It’s about Iowans.
Two other proposals facing our state reveal just how much partisan politics has lost touch with Iowans. One: eminent domain for private profits. Two: withholding millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools. I oppose both of these proposals because neither serves the common good.
Do you support the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines? Why or why not?
Wiskus: I do not support the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines. Eminent domain must serve a necessary public purpose. In 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court found that “trickledown benefits of economic development are not enough to constitute a public use.” The Court sarcastically explained that if economic development could trigger eminent domain, then a corporation could “condemn Iowa farmland to build a palatial mansion […] so long as 3,100 workers were needed to build it, it employed twelve servants, and it accounted for $27 million in property taxes.” In Iowa, this is not allowed. But my opponent, McClintock, failed last year to vote for HF 2565, which would have placed a moratorium on eminent domain for CO2 pipelines. He had a chance to take a stand when it mattered, and he didn’t.
What restrictions or limitations should be placed on the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines?
Wiskus: For the past 11 months, I’ve been taking a stand together with all of my neighbors — Republicans, Democrats, and No Party voters, alike — against eminent domain for the CO2 pipelines. As an Iowa State Senator, I would forward legislation to require that a company obtain 90 percent of easements voluntarily before eminent domain could be triggered. Does that threshold seem high? In fact, last year, Senate File 2160 would have forbidden any use of eminent domain for these CO2 pipelines — and neither ADM nor POET objected to that bill. They know that eminent domain should not be used for the economic development of private industry — period.
The state is projected to have a budget surplus of more than $1 billion. What would be your top priorities for that surplus?
Wiskus: Over half of U.S. states have surpluses of $1 billion or more, post-pandemic. Will Iowa become a leader among those that find themselves in this fortunate position? Can we invest in a resilient Iowa, attracting young families and honoring older residents? Resiliency in Senate 42 means:
1. Broadband in rural areas, now. With more people being able to work from home, let’s invite an influx of families to revitalize our small towns.
2. Restore funding for public schools. Families want to stay in Iowa for our great tradition of public education.
3. Invest in rural hospitals and health care systems, including mental health services, dental care, and home health aides. Senior Iowans, especially, need access to services that will allow them to stay in their own homes and communities.
What changes — beyond those made in recent sessions — would you like to see made to Iowa's tax code?
Wiskus: I must admit I was very surprised that Iowa moved to a 3.9 percent flat individual income tax. Before 2022, only four other states in the past 100 years had ever switched from a graduated-rate income tax to a flat tax! Have we become the victims of aggressive lobbying by the top 1 percent? Because those are the people who will benefit the most from these changes.
Taxes are about the common good. In Iowa, we believe that everyone should get a fair shot at success. Yes, it takes hard work, creativity, responsibility, and a bit of luck. But equality and opportunity are foundational values in our state. According to U.S. News and World Report, Iowa is the No. 1 state in the nation for economic opportunity, affordability, and equality. How do we maintain that? No more income tax cuts for the ultrawealthy.
Under what circumstances should Iowans be able to access abortion services in the state? What if any, exceptions should apply to any abortion bans?
Wiskus: Abortion touches on deep ethical questions about freedom, personhood, technology and life. If we fail to genuinely engage with such issues, divisions will only fester. We must not resort to partisan agendas but search with compassion for the common good.
My opponent, McClintock, voted to amend the State Constitution and remove any right to abortion (HJR-5). But that’s contrary to the idea of the Constitution itself, which seeks to guard against overreach by partisan politicians (who want power, not the conversion of hearts). McClintock then voted "No" to H-1012, which would have protected a woman’s right to necessary medical procedures if her life were at risk. Miscarriages happen — pregnancy complications happen. McClintock voted against saving women’s lives! I would vote differently.
What are your ideas for improving public schools?
Wiskus: First, let’s celebrate that Iowa is No. 1 in the nation for high school graduation rates — our public schools really care about our students’ achievements. And in 2021, we were No. 2 for highest ACT scores — our students know how to work hard for their futures.
However, we need to raise the level of reading and math by 8th grade — we have fallen to the middle of the pack there — and provide more opportunities to enroll our 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool programs. These programs are especially important for the development of literacy skills, which in turn impact the achievement of our 8th-graders. Currently our state’s per-pupil funding is below the national average. How do we expect to see better-than-average results with worse-than-average monetary resources? Let’s restore funding for education.
Do you support further use of state funds to help parents pay the costs of non-public schools or home schooling for grades K-12? Why or why not?
Wiskus: No, I do not believe that this would be appropriate.
Supporting public schools is about supporting the future of all Iowans. I pay for public education whether or not I have a child who attends a public school, just like I pay for roads whether or not I actually drive on each particular one. State funds are to be used for the good of the whole.
Iowans understand this — we understand what it means to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Schools stand at the heart of our communities, and with respect to school funding, we need to reaffirm our values: life isn’t like a lunchtime cafeteria where we only pay for what we consume — what truly has value in life are the things that we share with others, like respect, honor, generosity, and trust.
Should Iowa ban the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving?
Wiskus: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, distracted driving results in thousands of fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, and we know that younger drivers are especially vulnerable to distractions. Iowa already bans texting while driving, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, half of all states have taken the next logical step in banning the use of hand-held devices while driving. This certainly seems to be a reasonable idea.
Should automated traffic cameras be banned?
Wiskus: I have to admit that this question makes me chuckle, since I spend much of my driving time on gravel roads. There are no automated traffic cameras in my district, and we seem to manage pretty well! Where I live, it’s not uncommon to stop in the middle of the gravel road and chat with a neighbor who’s coming the other way — things are just a little slower out here, and I prefer that pace of life.
I haven’t heard from any constituents about this issue in my district. What I have heard are concerns about an overreaching, bitterly partisan government in Des Moines that fails to understand our small-town, local values of respect, fairness, strength, and compassion.