House District 65 in Linn County includes eastern Cedar Rapids.
Name: George Olmsted
Residence: Cedar Rapids
Occupation: Retired economics professor
Education: Ph.D., economics, Northwestern University, 1984
What are the three most important issues facing Iowans, and how would you address them?
• We need to improve the schools, which requires more accountability and competition, and may require expansion of charter schools and school choice.
• Children and teenagers face challenges including broken families, drug use and mental illness.
• We need to fix the state income tax, which, with its high rates and narrow tax base, is an unnecessary drag on the economy. Now, of course, that’s more complicated because we need to fix the tax reform. See below for more.
Do you believe the state should increase the minimum wage? If yes, to what level?
A relatively small increase, to $9, say, would be mostly harmless but also mostly pointless. It might price some teenagers out of the market, but it would have little effect on adults. A large increase would be counterproductive. It would eliminate some jobs, reduce some workers’ hours, and in many cases reduce their Earned Income Credits.
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Would you vote to roll back the state income tax cuts passed last session? Would you expand them?
The “tax reform” aspect of the law — broadening the tax base and reducing the rates — was a good idea. Combining tax reform and substantial tax cuts in the same bill was not. And scheduling tax cuts four years in the future, subject to a (poorly designed) revenue trigger, was a terrible idea. The relatively small cuts scheduled to take effect in 2019 should not be rolled back; the ones scheduled for 2023 probably should be.
Would you vote to end or phase out the property tax “backfill” for local governments?
Would you vote to ban automated traffic cameras/enforcement devices? If no, would you favor bringing them under state regulation?
I think that safety is the only sufficient reason for using traffic cameras, and their effect on safety is disputed. If the weight of the evidence is that they do not contribute to safety, they should be banned. If that’s not possible, there should be limits similar to those in the bill passed by the House this year.
Would you vote to expand Iowa’s current medical cannabis law? Legalize marijuana?
I would support expanding the medical marijuana law. There are indications that legalizing marijuana for recreational use has a substantial cost in problems such as driving under the influence and health effects. That information may not be conclusive, but, based on what I know right now I would not support legalizing recreational use.
Should Iowa amend the state Constitution to protect the right to bear arms beyond current language? Would you support a “constitutional carry” change to Iowa’s firearm permit system that would significantly expand gun rights?
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I don’t support constitutional carry (which basically eliminates the need for a permit). I support concealed carry with a permit.
Would you support giving counties local control to regulate livestock facilities? Would you favor a moratorium on new large CAFO construction?
There’s a need for greater regulation of these facilities because of their effect on water quality. The state is better equipped to provide that regulation than counties are, however.
What are your thoughts on increasing funding for public education? Would you vote to extend 1-cent SAVE sales tax for school infrastructure until 2049?
I support extending the SAVE tax. More generally, school spending per pupil (adjusted for inflation) has risen in the past few years, but slowly. I’d support greater increases in state aid, which I’m sure will have bipartisan support if the economy remains strong.
Would you expand or repeal Iowa’s law barring doctors from performing an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected?
No, and no. I support the fetal heartbeat law.