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 Des Moines business executive Fred Hubbell.
• Why are you running?
Hubbell prefaced his answer by describing he and his wife Charlotte’s work on progressive causes, and his opposition to the agenda pursued by Republicans controlling the Statehouse.
“If we didn’t get a new governor, they were going to do it for the next four years,” Hubbell said. “After all the investments and time and commitment we’d made over all those years, we didn’t want to see it all go to waste in a four- or five-year time frame, and take Iowa down a Kansas road or an Oklahoma road, take your pick. So I decided I’m not going to stand by any longer and let it happen.”
• How would you fix Medicaid privatization?
“It’s a mess. The only good news is (Gov. Terry) Branstad privatized it overnight, didn’t have any legislative support or approval for it, so that means a new governor can do the same thing, bring it back under state management. I’ve tried to be clear that would be the first thing I would do.
“But that doesn’t mean you go back to a fee-for-service … There are plenty of states that have much more of a hybrid between managed care and fee-for-service that are doing a much better job than Iowa is. Minnesota is one. Connecticut is one. Louisiana is actually doing a better job, more creative.”
Hubbell estimated it would take about a year to revamp Medicaid.
“That’s going to take a while. The last thing you want to do is do it overnight like (Branstad) did.”
• How would you address budget challenges?
“The budget deficits we’ve experienced are self-inflicted. I understand there’s some decline in the farm economy, we know that … But we’ve got the lowest unemployment we’ve had in 30 or 40 years, and we still have budget problems,” Hubbell said.
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“The biggest issue for me is what I call wasteful corporate giveaways … There’s this whole category called tax expenditures, which is for individuals as well as for business that basically gets no oversight, no supervision. There’s hardly any caps in place on most of those. There’s really no sunsets on many of them. They’re on automatic pilot. They just get bigger and bigger every year.”
Hubbell said he was part of a tax credit review a decade ago, but recommendations for capping and sun-setting many credits weren’t heeded. He’s open a new review as governor. He singled out Iowa’s $42 million Research Activities Tax Credit, which is refundable. That means some companies receive state payments beyond their tax liability. Rockwell-Collins is a top recipient, and has cited the credit as a factor in keeping a large footprint in Iowa.
Hubbell supports the credit as a deduction, but not as a payment. “We shouldn’t be paying that out in cash every year when we’re underfunding education, underfunding health care, underfunding water quality, underfunding all the other important things in our state,” Hubbell said.
• How would you pursue economic development?
“The best economic development strategy, I think, is we return to having one of the best educational systems in the country,” Hubbell said.
“We used to be able to recruit people to Iowa because everybody knew Iowa had one of the best K-12 educational systems. We don’t have that today.”
He also would address college affordability, job training and infrastructure.
“Rather than giving the Apples of the world $20 million in tax credits to bring 50 jobs to Des Moines, I would be stepping back,” Hubbell said.
Hubbell pitched a reinvented Vision Iowa Program, which provided money for big community amenities.
His Vision Iowa grants would go to projects making communities more economically competitive, such as expanded housing, child care or health care.
“I want to open up that kind of a program,” he said.
• What’s on your education agenda?
“I think we need to fund the universal pre-K first. We have that in our state, but it’s only about half-funded,” Hubbell said. “Then we need to fully fund K-12. If we fully fund K-12, we need to raise our expectations for what we want out of our schools. We need to aspire to be one of the best in the country.”
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Specifically, Hubbell said he would work to restore collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees. He would target rising class sizes and seek to put more mental health counselors in schools. Hubbell said he still is working on his complete package of education proposals.
• How would you address water quality?
Hubbell supports raising the sales tax by three-eighths of a cent to fill the constitutionally protected Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. He would pursue cost-share opportunities with landowners installing runoff control measures, tied to mandatory water monitoring and a commitment to keep measures in place long term. The program would be voluntary.
“I’m a believer that we should be doing voluntary cost incentives first,” Hubbell said. “And if citizens and farmers aren’t happy with the results, if we’re not getting enough buy-in, enough people aren’t doing it, then we need to look at other alternatives.”
Hubbell cited a Minnesota law that requires farmers to plant buffer strips along waterways.
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