It is Wednesday morning for those of you reading, but Tuesday as I write this. Hopefully, you have the benefit of knowing how the election turned out. I don’t.
Nonetheless this is the day we should all be planning how to hold politicians to their campaign promises, but it might be more difficult than we think. Much of what the campaigns, typically via their political parties, circulated were initially introductory messages followed by attacks on their opponents. Fortunately, newspapers, including The Gazette, still are asking questions and sharing candidates’ answers with the public. So, I’m skipping the ads and diving into those survey responses and information provided to our editorial board.
If Kim Reynolds earned the most votes, we should remember that she listed the three most important issues facing Iowans as education, health care and taxes. While she included no specific promises in her survey response, in discussing mental health care specifically, she touched on two past initiatives that will require more legislative and administrative action, including a dedicated funding stream for the mental health reforms she signed into law this year and action on any recommendations from the Children’s Mental Health Board she established by executive order.
Fred Hubbell, in contrast, has several promises tucked within his survey response and conversation with our editorial board. (Reynolds chose not to meet with the board.) Hubbell has pledged to reverse Medicaid privatization, restore funding to Planned Parenthood, establish public-private partnerships for workforce training programs, restore collective bargaining rights and the workers’ compensation system, and make key changes to address problems specific to rural communities (such as affordable housing and broadband access).
Both have pledged to review existing tax credits — a promise made repeatedly by Iowa politicians over the past few years — and ultimately select some to roll back. If voters want to free up state funding for other initiatives, whether further tax reform or larger education investment, this is the place to do it.
Legislative promises have typically mirrored those of the gubernatorial candidates with Republican promises mostly following past accomplishments, and Democratic promises involving complete reversal or retooling of changes made during the past few years of GOP control. That backdrop, however, is what prompted recent speculation regarding IPERS. That is, over the past two years, Republican majorities have enacted changes not part of their campaign stances, or changes that went far beyond what was promised. “Tweaks” to the collective bargaining law, for instance, became a full gutting of Chapter 20. And that prompted a great deal of public distrust.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to say if a politician didn’t run on it, and if some emergency hasn’t prompted it, then the Legislature and the executive branch should first concentrate on what they told voters they were going to do — not what the wallets backing their campaigns expect them to do. Doing otherwise, especially without public vetting, violates public trust and adds to political polarization.
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