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 Cathy Glasson of Iowa City, a nurse and president of the Service Employees International Union Local 199.
• Why are you running?
“As a union leader and a registered nurse and an organizer, I decided to run for governor because I’m sick and tired of watching working people in our state taking a beating with some of the things that have been going on with the Legislature the past several sessions,” Glasson said. “I believe the No. 1 job of a governor in any state is to improve the standard of living for the people who live in our state.”
Glasson pointed to legislative actions curtailing public employee union bargaining rights, eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, nullifying local minimum wage ordinances and the executive branch push to privatize Medicaid health coverage.
“I think no Iowan that I’ve talked to voted for this governor or this Legislature to make those changes. And I believe Iowans are ready for significant change that drives our state in a more progressive and bold future,” Glasson said.
• You’ve called raising the minimum wage to $15 over three years. How would that affect businesses, particularly in small towns?
“I’ve heard that from folks. And the point of raising the minimum wage is not to hurt small businesses and we’ll accommodate for that. However, we know if we raise the minimum wage in small communities, particularly, folks who have that higher income spend it in local businesses. When the wage is raised, smaller communities actually benefit from the economic impact,” said Glasson, arguing a higher wage floor would help small businesses compete with low-wage, “big box” competitors.
“And we’ll work with those small businesses to make sure the can implement it and not suffer consequences. That’s not the point of raising the minimum wage,” said Glasson, raising the prospect of exemptions for businesses based on earnings or number of employees.
• How would you address collective bargaining changes?
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“We absolutely have to restore union rights to the 184,000 public employees that were affected by the change last year. We should do that as a first step, but I don’t think that’s enough,” Glasson said.
“We need to reverse right-to-work legislation in this state in order to rebuild a strong union movement so more families and workers can improve their lives, better pay, better benefits, better working conditions. And that’s good for the Iowa economy because it builds a middle class,” Glasson said.
• Republicans veered sharply right by curtailing bargaining rights. Are you concerned repealing right-to-work will be seen by Iowans as veering too far left?
“The problem is we keep electing centrist middle-of-the-road Democrats. And we did this under Chet Culver with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. And as a union leader living through that period, it’s extremely frustrating because we didn’t see the improvements that labor should have seen with leadership in the Democratic Party,” Glasson said.
“I believe staying in the center and settling for less than what we deserve isn’t the way we beat Kim Reynolds in 2018. The way we beat Kim Reynolds is with a bold, progressive agenda that we fight for the things we know Iowans need and deserve and not give up on those,” Glasson said.
• You’re calling for ‘universal, single-payer health care’ coverage, with Medicaid available to all Iowans. How will you fund it?
“I get that question a lot, as you can imagine. We start off by not giving tax breaks to corporations that don’t need them. We have a lot of I think irresponsible tax breaks and credits that absolutely do not need the money and taxpayers don’t know what the benefit of giving those tax breaks is. We don’t know how many good jobs they have created. What’s the benefit to everyday Iowans by giving tax breaks?” Glasson said.
“When I’m Governor I’ll call for a full review,” said Glasson, who would evaluate all $600 million worth of tax credits and breaks.
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Glasson said her program would replace costly private and employer-based coverage with cheaper state health insurance, although she has not decided if coverage would be mandated. Employees of private insurers would be offered positions managing the state system, with union pay and benefits. The transition, Glasson said, would not “happen overnight.”
State insurance, she said, also would cut costs through preventive care. Reproductive and mental health care also would be covered.
“This is about getting back to health care as a fundamental human right. It’s not a privilege or a luxury for just the wealthy few,” Glasson said.
• What’s your education agenda?
“We should stop starving public education and demonizing teachers,” said Glasson, who would call for increasing K-12 state funding by 6 percent annually. She would veto any proposal increasing funding by less than 4 percent.
“And the reason I say 4 percent is because that’s what Iowa used to invest in our public schools. It is not outrageous to think we should go back to making sure it’s a priority, giving kids and teachers the resources they need in our schools,” Glasson said.
“As far as making college affordable … I’ll call for a full out tuition freeze at all of our public universities. Because, right now, it’s too expensive and students have a huge amount of student debt, to the tune of $13 billion for the state of Iowa,” Glasson said.
Glasson said she would work with experts to develop a plan for higher education with the goal of guaranteeing public university students can graduate “debt-free.” She also would explore the possibility of offering free tuition at the state’s community colleges.
“I think we need leadership in state government that’s actually going to bring a common-sense approach to budgeting, where you invest in the things that are important and hold off on the things that can wait,” Glasson said.
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