Senate District 37 covers eastern Johnson County, all of Cedar County and the city of Wilton in Muscatine County.
Name: Zach Wahls
Education: Bachelor’s, University of Iowa; Master’s in public affairs, Princeton University
What are the three most important issues facing Iowans, and how would you address them?
After knocking thousands of doors, I can say the three top issues facing Iowans are:
• Health care
• Our economy
On health care: reverse Medicaid privatization, reform our mental health system, and fix our individual market. On education, fully fund K-12 and reverse the $100 million-plus cuts to our Regents schools. On the economy, unemployment is low, but wages are flat and underemployment is high. We must raise wages, slow the rising cost of living and reinstate workers’ rights.
Do you believe the state should increase the minimum wage? If yes, to what level?
Yes. Wages are largely flat and too many Iowans are working multiple minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. We must also recognize that raising the minimum wage in our small towns can be tricky and we have to make sure that increases don’t, for example, put grocery stores out of business. But raising the wage is imperative. The Iowa Policy Project estimates that if we raised the minimum wage to $10.10 statewide, over 300,000 Iowans would benefit from higher wages. That’s enormous.
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Would you vote to roll back the state income tax cuts passed last session? Would you expand them?
We should review every tax cut and expenditure. While the cost of living in Iowa has been rising, Republicans have been cutting taxes for the wealthy. Instead, our wealthy residents and big corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, and we should invest in expanded tax credits for working families. We have to provide real economic relief for working and middle-class Iowans who can’t keep up with the rising costs of living, housing and education while their purchasing power deteriorates.
Would you vote to end or phase out the property tax “backfill” for local governments?
No. The backfill was a bipartisan promise made to local governments as a result of the 2013 property tax reform. When that legislation passed, it did not include a sunset for the backfill. Eliminating or reducing the property tax backfill would force local governments to raise taxes and/or cut services. This dilemma would be especially difficult for Iowa’s rural areas and small towns, which are working with limited resources as is. The Legislature needs to keep its promise to local governments.
Would you vote to ban automated traffic cameras/enforcement devices? If no, would you favor bringing them under state regulation?
Generally speaking, I think speeding and speed cameras are less subjective than the behavior at intersections witnessed by traffic cameras and so I feel more comfortable with speed cameras than traffic cameras in intersections. I would strongly prefer for citations to be issued by real-life officers than by automated traffic cameras.
Would you vote to expand Iowa’s current medical cannabis law? Legalize marijuana?
We should expand Iowa’s current medical cannabis law. My mother, Terry, suffers from multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease for which cannabis could provide significant relief. Our current law is so strict as to be ineffectual, so I believe it should be expanded. For recreational cannabis, though the medical research is clear that cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes, I would carefully explore the impact of legalization with input from all stakeholders including law enforcement.
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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?
I grew up shooting rifles, shotguns and revolvers, and have friends who enjoy shooting and hunting. The U.S. Constitution has firm, strong protections for firearms ownership, and introducing redundant language in the Iowa Constitution may inhibit the ability of our state to pass reasonable gun safety laws. We should start by fully enforcing the laws already on our books, and we should consider new gun safety laws that will keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people.
Would you support giving counties local control to regulate livestock facilities? Would you favor a moratorium on new large CAFO construction?
I support a moratorium on new large CAFO construction until we can revisit the Master Matrix. Generally speaking, I support home rule for counties on most issues, but I have also spoken with several farmers in my district who operate in multiple counties. We have to find the right balance between statewide guidance and local control so farmers have the consistency they need and so each county can meet the needs of its citizens — many people in rural counties are worried about livestock facilities.
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?
We need to both restore funding and find ways for teachers and administrators to innovate. And yes, I strongly support extending the SAVE sales tax, which is especially crucial in rural school districts. When I was growing up, Iowa’s public schools were among the best in the country. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Chronic underinvestment in education is a huge problem for all Iowans, because you never get a second chance at a first start.
Would you expand or repeal Iowa’s law barring doctors from performing an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected?
I would vote to repeal the “fetal heartbeat” bill. The tough, emotional decision to maintain or end a pregnancy should be made by the woman who is pregnant, not by politicians. The easiest way to reduce abortions is to reduce the demand for them by expanding access to safe, inexpensive and effective contraception.