Iowa Governor Debate

Iowa Press | Special
Oct 17, 2022 | 60 min

Challenger Deidre DeJear (D - Des Moines) and incumbent Governor Kim Reynolds (R - Des Moines) answer questions from reporters and discuss their platforms, concerns and plans for Iowa’s future.




For the first time, democrats and republicans have two women at the top of the ticket in Iowa this November. We'll question candidates for Governor, Kim Reynolds and Deidre DeJear, in this special live Iowa Press Debate.


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For decades Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Live from Iowa PBS Studios in Johnston, this is a special Iowa Press Debate featuring candidates for Governor. Here is Moderator Kay Henderson.


Henderson: For the next hour we will explore the views of two women who are running to be Governor of Iowa for the next four years. We'll meet the candidates right now. The republican incumbent is Kim Reynolds. She succeeded Terry Branstad as Governor in mid-2017. She was elected to a full four-year term in 2018. Deidre DeJear is the democrat in the race. She is a small business owner in Des Moines. She ran for Secretary of State in 2018. Welcome to you both.

Reynolds: Thank you.

DeJear: Pleasure to be here.

Henderson: Joining me in asking the questions are reporters Dave Price, Political Director at WHO-TV 13 in Des Moines and Erin Murphy, Des Moines Bureau Chief for the Gazette in Cedar Rapids.

Murphy: Candidates, you are in one of two statewide races at the top of the ticket. In many ways you are leaders in your party here in this state. I wanted to ask each of you, Kim Reynolds we'll start with you, what message is your party, are republicans sending to voters for this November's elections?

Reynolds: Well, first of all, I want to thank PBS for hosting us tonight, I appreciate that very much and I want to take this opportunity to thank Iowans for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Governor of this great state. It's hard to believe that it has been four years since I was elected to office. And we have faced a lot of challenges over those four years. We started with historic flooding on the western side of the state with the Missouri, a worldwide pandemic, a derecho and then we had tornados that impacted families and communities all across this state. And through all of it I have been so inspired by the resilience and the goodness of Iowans. And I'm really proud of what we have been able to do together. And the state is in a better place because of it. I'll give you an example. When we headed into COVID we had the most sound and resilient budget in the country according to KPMG. We were able to come out of it, we were recognized as the fastest recovery in the country. And that had to do with the fact that we trusted Iowans to do the right thing and they did. We rejected lockdowns and we kept our businesses open and our kids in school. And we cut taxes. And we kept our communities safe by supporting our men and women who serve in law enforcement. And we put parents back in charge of their child's education. Our fiscal health is strong. Our national profile is rising, recognized as the number one state for opportunity, affordable housing, fiscal responsibility and we have been named one of the top 10 states to live in, in the country. So we are pro-parent, we are pro-family, we are pro-taxpayer and we are pro-freedom. I am proud of what we have been able to do over the last four years. I was honored to give the response to the State of the Union and really share Iowa's story with the country. And so that's what we'll be running on. We're going to build on what we've done over the last four years. I think the best is yet to come.

Murphy: And Deidre DeJear, what message do democrats have for voters in this election?

DeJear: I would also like to echo the Governor in thanking PBS and each of you all for raising the awareness around this race and giving us an opportunity to share our vision for Iowa. I'm running for Governor because I believe in this state. But more importantly, I believe in our people. As an undergraduate student at Drake University I started a small business and it was a peculiar time to start a small business, it was during the recession. Folks were getting laid off from their jobs and didn't have a choice but to become entrepreneurs. And here I was, this young college student, and wanted to help steamroll these businesses to get started. And fast forward I began to create not only small business development programs but financial coaching programs that were helping Iowans and still are helping Iowans achieve economic sustainability. But I'll tell you, coming into the pandemic we knew early on because of my experience during the Great Recession that small business owners were going to need a great deal of resources and a great deal of help. And I buckled up and got to work. And we learned just being on the ground the number of challenges that Iowans were experiencing and I just saw them time and time again and thought man, I want to be a part of change, I want to be a part of doing something about this. And so we started an exploratory last summer, traveled throughout the state and I asked Iowans two questions. What good do you see in your communities? And I'll tell you, there's a lot of good that exists. Our Iowans have a great deal of pride that exists in their communities. But I asked them another question. Where do you see room for improvement? Where do you see growth? And everything that I heard was very, very reasonable. Iowans want to see a stronger education system. Our state was once number one. Now we're 18, 19 on the list and we know that is not where we belong. They want to see affordable and accessible health care and mental health care services in our communities. Rural Iowans are driving 45, 60 miles to get care. In urban Iowa, they live right next door to the hospital and don't get the care that they need. And then the other thing is that folks wanted to see their economies grow all over the state. And so when you ask what our democratic message is, it's that we see Iowans. We see you as people. And we are insistent on putting you first. We want to make sure that we're maximizing every single one of your taxpayer dollars to work for you. And I am insistent on doing that because I believe that Iowa is worth the work.

Price: You mentioned in your opening answer about tax cuts you and the republicans had made through the legislature. So now you have also mentioned you're not done cutting taxes. So to start us off here, what is next here? Is the goal to eliminate personal income? Are you going to cut corporate more? Is it going to be C all of the above? What's the plan?

Reynolds: Well, first of all, I am very proud of the fact that I was able to sign my third tax cut into law since taking office working with the legislature. We were taxing like a blue state. We weren't competitive. Our individual income tax rate was nearly 9%. When this is fully implemented it will be 3.9% flat and fair. I am so excited of the fact that we're going to no longer tax retirement income beginning next year. Our retirees are a valuable asset and we want to keep them in this state. We don't want them going to Florida and Arizona, Texas, Nebraska and that's what was happening because they had better tax policy than we had. They have discretionary funding, they work part-time, they volunteer, they support our non-profits. So we're excited about keeping more of our retirees in the state. I've indicated that we're not done. We'll continue to look at it but we're going to continue to do it in a responsible manner so that we can sustain the tax cuts. But if we're over collecting we're going to get that money back to hardworking Iowans. If we've over collected then we need to turn it back to them and so we're going to look for opportunities to do that. We're always looking at ways that we can help working families keep more of their hard earned money. We want to continue to be competitive. We want businesses and people staying in the state and a tax environment is a big reason for them to do that.

Price: Do you prefer one or the other, personal versus corporate?

Reynolds: Oh, personal. That's where we started. First of all, the first one that we passed everybody just thought the whole world was going to end as we know it. We were going to have budget cuts and the world was going to fall apart and that didn't happen. We actually went from a budget deficit to a budget surplus. And I'm proud to say that two of the three tax cuts we were actually able to get bipartisan support. So brought both parties together to support reducing the tax burden on hardworking families, and especially with inflation at a 40-year high. People are struggling to put groceries on the table and to fill their tank up with gas. And so to hopefully offset some of that where we see an administration that is increasing taxes with inflation, we're going to do what we can to help those families keep a little bit more of that money.

Price: You've criticized that last round of tax cuts. So of what they have done so far, what would you keep and what would you get rid of?

DeJear: I believe just in working with people in their personal finances, specifically as it relates to low to moderate income individuals, I created a program back in 2012 and I can say since the Governor has been in leadership those tax cuts have had minimal if any impact on low to moderate income individuals. As we're looking at their personal finances we're trying to help them achieve their goals, maximize every single dollar that they get. And what I have come to find out is while those tax cuts don't add value, what does add value are the systems that help around them like strong education, access to health care and mental health care services, things that mitigate them having to respond to emergencies, access to housing. We are short 50,000 workforce units in this state today. Access to child care. We have lost nearly about 40% of our child care providers in this state over the last couple of years. So these are the things that Iowans are needing as we're working with those low to moderate income individuals, which is the vast majority of Iowans. What they need is systems that are going to work for them so that they can have that economic sustainability. And at the end of the day that means we're putting their taxpayer dollar to work.

Price: So are you repealing hers then?

DeJear: The Revenue Estimating Committee has already shown us that we're going to see a drop in revenue. And while I believe that those tax cuts are short-sided, especially in the middle of a pandemic and the middle of social unrest and a derecho, I believe these were the moments for us to invest our resources and maximized the potential of the Iowa dollar. And so we're going to have to look at what these tax cuts are going to do to Iowans. But here's what I want to call to question because this tax cut was sold as a retention and a recruitment tax cut. The vast majority of Iowans are going to get about $50 to $55 a month 12 years from now with that tax cut. And that $50 to $55 a month 12 years from now, excuse me, 4 years from now, doesn't do anything to resolve the issues with our education system today, our mental health care system today. And so rather than cutting, I think this is a moment where we should be investing so that we can restore Iowans and they can have that sustainability.

Reynolds: I'd like to respond to that. Talk to the working families, $55, $25, that matters to them, it makes a difference, especially as they're seeing grocery prices skyrocket, what it costs to fill up your car. You take a look at utility bills, they're increasing. Everything is increasing across the board. So any time that we can help Iowans keep more of their hard earned money it does matter. The Cato Institute just recognized Iowa for the number one state in the country for fiscal responsibility and that was what they took into account was not only the fiscal responsibility and restraint that we practice but also the tax policies that we have put in place. We'll go from the 6th highest with the individual income tax rate in the country to the 4th lowest. And it does matter. That's why people are staying in the state and every year those taxes go down. And just like -- we'll continue to look for ways that we can expedite those if we have the resources to do that. But the bottom line is, they think that they know what to do with your money better than you do. They want to take your money and develop government programs instead of giving it back to Iowans and letting them choose what to do with their money. And we were able to not only cut taxes but make record investments in K-12 education, in broadband and in child care and in housing. And in addition to that we still had a surplus. And so we're watching what is happening at the federal level, but we're in a good place to take on some of the challenges that we're seeing from this administration moving forward so that we can maintain those tax cuts in addition to investing in priorities important to Iowans.

Henderson: You mentioned the surplus. We found out last month that the state surplus is $1.9 billion. Deidre DeJear, how would you use it?

DeJear: So, one thing I would like to say is in 2018 the Governor boasted of a $127 million, with an m, $127 million surplus. We are at about almost $2 billion now. That's more than 1000 plus percent. I don't know if you get those odds on Wall Street today. And so while we can boast about our surplus we have to think about at what cost? We see the degradation to our education system happening right before our eyes. We're asking our systems to do more with a lot less. We're seeing that in corrections, we're seeing that in health care and mental health care services. That surplus is evidence that the Iowa taxpayer dollar is not going to work, it's just being hoarded. We have to make sure that we are maximizing every potential of the Iowa taxpayer dollar. And so those funds in the surplus, rather than being used for one-time funds, those taxpayer dollars should be allocated on an annual basis so that we're pushing the systems that are going to not only get people back to work but ensure that families all across the state have economic sustainability. When I'm talking to small business owners, they're having challenges keeping their employees because of the lack of child care that is accessible. When I'm in rural Iowa talking to manufacturers, they're having challenges getting people to stay at work because of the lack of housing. And so I want to invest the taxpayer dollar and not just hoard the resources in a surplus.

Reynolds: But we have invested dollars into child care and into housing. Over $500 million into child care. And I'm proud of what we've been able to do with public private partnerships. And we have expanded child care across the state. In fact, through the child care challenge we have actually in one year we'll have expanded the number of slots available for child care to 10,500. So we are working on it every day, working with communities across the state. And in addition to that, we're also working with businesses to incentivize them to bring child care on-site at the business or if they don't bring it on-site to work with existing child care providers and be accountable for 10 to 20 slots. Not only is that a retention and a recruitment tool for them, but it helps our daycare providers sustain and be able to provide funding that they can count on month after month. And we have made extensive investments in housing over the last couple of years, over $400 million into that too. So all of those programs are being implemented and have been implemented over the last four years.

DeJear: And I'll just say I'm looking at the need. We need to fill 82,000 jobs in this state today. And if you think about it, if just a quarter of those people had a child that needed child care, 10,000 child care spots is not enough. I want to go the distance for Iowans so that we can truly resolve the workforce crisis that we have and get people back to work.

Reynolds: Real quick, I have one more thing. Part of that started when the democrats decided not to get the kids back in the classroom. When we were in the middle of the pandemic and we fought to get those kids back in the classroom so the could have every opportunity to survive and address a really crucial time through the pandemic, every single legislator, democratic legislator in the House and the Senate voted against getting those kids back in the classroom, voted against parents deciding if their child should wear a mask, voted against keeping the economy open. They wanted to shut down the economy. I talked to business after business after business as I travel this state, I'm in 99 counties every single year and the first thing they say to me is thank you so much for keeping our businesses open. I look at what happened in other states, in blue states that were ran by blue Governors. And what happened there? They shut the businesses down. They kept the kids out of school for over two years. And the impact that that has had on businesses and the economy, I have parents coming up to me crying telling me thank you for getting our kids back in school. We had parents that had to step out of the workforce.

Henderson: And we're going to move onto the next issue. Erin?

Murphy: And still talking about how to handle that budget surplus and some of the services that the state offers. This came up from both of you I believe, the state's mental health care system has been redesigned and some new elements put in. But advocates say that it still needs to be better funded. Kim Reynolds, I'll start with you. Should some of that surplus be used to help bolster that mental health care system in the state?

Reynolds: Well, I'm going to talk about what we've done for mental health in four years and I'm really proud of what we've done to really address mental health delivery and a system to Iowans. And there's always more that we can do and I think what I've done over the last four years will really demonstrate how we continue to make improvements, re-evaluate, take the next step and continue to enhance the system. When we started out mental health was delivered county by county. Then we went to a regional system, 14 regions. But there was still issues of disparate services and it depended on where you lived what access you had to mental health. And so in 2018 I worked on and we passed, the legislature, a comprehensive adult mental health reform. And included in that were access centers, which the legislation asked for six, we have seven access centers today across the state, mobile crisis centers or mobile crisis teams that are now in 85 of the 99 counties. We have community-based stabilization centers to help individuals as well as jail diversion. So a lot of enhancements were made to the adult mental health system. And the next thing that we did the following year is we stood up a children's mental health system. For two decades legislators had talked about creating a children's mental health system and it had never been done. Through an executive order I set up a task force, I brought in stakeholders from all across the state, they made their recommendations. We took those recommendations and codified them and, again, that children's mental health statute that we passed, passed unanimously. Every single legislator, republican, democrat, voted for that and that built a continuum of care for a child all the way to an adult. And the final piece of this, and this gets to your question, Erin, is the funding component. So we were one of only a couple of states that funded our mental health system through county property tax levy and that is not where it should be funded from. And again, this is something that they talked about changing for years. And I brought both parties together through a compromise bill. In 2021 we were able to take the funding for mental health services off of property taxes and move it to a state allocation. And that provided predictability in funding into the mental health system. Also, in addition to that, in that same piece of legislation that we passed, there is a growth factor. So as revenue increases, it automatically increases the funding that goes into the mental health system. When we were levying through the property taxes it was capped at $116 million, most of the time they didn't levy to the cap, so it was about $99 million that was going into mental health. And with the projected funding for fiscal year '23 it will be about $128 million that will go into the mental health system. And we're continuing to look at that. So that is new money that is already built in, it takes the politics out of it.

Murphy: And will that be sufficient?

Reynolds: We will continue to look at it. But yeah, you talk to the providers -- and we'll continue to evaluate, continue to build out, we'll continue to look for where there's gaps. Another component of this is we're doing the realignment with public health and health and human services into one agency and that will really help streamline I think and help identify where some of those gaps are.

Henderson: Deidre DeJear?

DeJear: So, I think it's one thing to talk about what we've done. But I think it's another thing to talk about the effectiveness of what we've done. And mental health care is a challenge that we hear many Iowans talk about all over this state. I go into schools and I ask our students the same questions that I ask adults. What is your number one issue? What means something to you? I've talked to 4th graders and 5th graders who are asking for mental health care services. I go to our colleges, people are asking for mental health care services, telling me they have to wait six months to get care. And this is something that is very, very important to me because my mother died when I was eight years old just three days after my little sister was born and it turned my life upside down. But I am able to sit here today because my father gave me access to mental health care workers and social workers and my school. And when I think about the pressing need of Iowans all across this state, I'm not just looking at the work that has been done, I'm looking at the efficacy of the work that has been done. And I'll tell you, I chatted with a father very early in this campaign, he's out of Dubuque, and his 17-year-old kid called him in the middle of the day and said, dad I'm thinking about harming myself, not a call that any parent wants to get. And so this father gets to his car, takes his kid to the emergency room, mind you this is an insured father. He gets to the emergency room and the doc says all right, unfortunately we can't get you in to see a psychiatrist for another six months. That is unreasonable, but the reason being is that we have less than 30 child psychiatrists in this state and we have more than half a million kids. The next best thing that that doctor offered that child was to see, mind you they are in Dubuque, he offered an open bed in Sioux City, still yet unreasonable. But the next best thing that that doctor offered that kid was to see a psychologist in two months, still unreasonable. But the reason being is that we have less than 750 beds in this state and we also are 45th in the nation in mental health care worker availability. And so the need is there. We have to make sure that this industry is set to perform, that our reimbursement rates are creating the business model for these folks to actually do this work in the private industry, but we're also creating pathways for young people to actually get in this field by making sure that K-12 is preparing them for these types of jobs, but also ensuring that we're investing in post-secondary education to get them into these jobs as well. So I'm looking at the damage right now, I'm looking at the harm and I'm looking at what Iowans are asking for. And I am of the firm belief that we can turn this system around, that we can move it forward, but we have to center it around people first and realize first and foremost this is a need that people have and it's a need that I hear more people talk about than any other thing outside of education.

Henderson: Dave is going to move onto another topic.

Reynolds: I want to talk about --

Henderson: Dave is going to move onto another topic --

Reynolds: -- with children's mental health. I would like to just at least respond to that because I demonstrated what we've done over the last four years. It has not just been talk. But we've done a partnership with the University of Iowa where we are providing evidence-based resources for educators in school districts so that they can identify early warning signs. We've made our school districts a site of service. And what that means is that they can contract with a professional, have them on-site and provide the services and be reimbursed through insurance because they're a site of service. Because we are implementing broadband across the state, telehealth is another component of that as well as making sure that we have parity for mental health funding for telehealth. So thank you for letting me respond to that.

Price: A couple of minutes ago we were talking about child care. Deidre DeJear, let's start with you on this. You've talked about that you want universal preschool, so taxpayer supported preschool for three and four year olds, right?

DeJear: Yeah, so I want an expanded child care program in this state. Some of that could come from federal resources. But more so than anything my goal is to make sure whether we're maximizing federal resources and/or taxpayer dollars, Iowa taxpayer dollars, that we're ensuring that every three and four year old in this state has access to at least 30 hours of early childhood education.

Price: When you talk to preschool providers they'll say that because of staff to children ratio, which the three and four year olds, that's where you make your money, with infants it's a little tougher to make the numbers work there. So if it does work out that way, would you plan to subsidize child care for families in other ways?

DeJear: Yes, absolutely.

Price: And what would that entail?

DeJear: We want to make sure that that access is there and looking at Iowa taxpayer dollars that's how we're going to figure it out because children need access to these services. Not only do children need access to these services, as we're hearing kindergarten teachers are telling us children are coming in less and less prepared and that is impacting our third grade reading scores across this state. This is also an opportunity to get our parents back to work as well and get them engaged in the workforce. And so however we need to make it happen, and there are ways to do it maximizing Iowa taxpayer dollars, but it has to be prioritized and it has to be a goal. It's not going to happen overnight. But that's what I want to work towards in this state.

Reynolds: It's the same tax policies, that's what they're talking about. So every time they talk about a new government program that means more money coming from taxpayers. But one of the things that we're working on --

DeJear: It doesn't not mean more money coming from taxpayers, it means utilizing the taxpayer dollars that are already there, the ones that are being hoarded by our existing government.

Reynolds: You have to be able to sustain that. It's not a one-time funding, you have to be able to sustain that going forward.

DeJear: Absolutely, absolutely.

Reynolds: So it does cost more. But one of the things --

Price: Hold on, let me get my question in first. It's on this topic. If I remember the things you mentioned before when you were talking about a different topic with child care I think those are primarily on the provider side, the business side. Is there anything that you would look at next session, something like a child tax credit, anything like that, to help families with the cost of it?

Reynolds: We actually increased the child care tax credit that is in place that used to be based on 45,000, we increased that to 90,000 so that helped a lot of parents that weren't being helped before. In addition to that, we addressed the ratio issue that you talked about. So we passed legislation to do that this last year. We also have certification programs in place with high schools to help incorporate kids to help them see if they have a passion or an interest in early learning. But one of the pilot programs that I'm really excited about is happening down in Council Bluffs and it is a blended model of child care and preschool. And so when the learning center is up and done it will have 192 available slots for child care from birth to the age of 5. In addition to that, they'll have 14 rooms for full day preschool. So we're kind of addressing both issues at once. So we're really excited to see how this can play out. And that's one pilot program but we also made available 16 additional grants to school districts across the state to take what Council Bluffs is doing and figure out a way to implement that. So when you take a look at what they're doing there, 10,500 new slots available just this year and continuing to build that out, $500 million to address the child care shortage, we're moving in the right direction and a lot of opportunity out there.

DeJear: I would just like to add, I believe that pilots make sense, but needless to say we had child care deserts in this state prior to the pandemic. It was exacerbated by the pandemic. And what's evermore important is that we look at this industry with a very, very keen eye. The average child care worker makes $26,000 a year. One of the challenges in keeping child care facilities open, many of them being small businesses, is the lack of access to the workforce. So if we really want to see strength and integrity in this system, we have to honor it with investment, making sure that if private industry is going to be a part of bolstering child care in this state that we have to make that business model work in the state. We also have to make sure that the individuals who are providing this service are paid with the integrity that they deserve to be. They are not glorified babysitters and they are worth more than average $26,000 on an annul basis. It's hard for any Iowan to be able to do much with that in any county in this state. And so I want to bolster this industry because this is the beginning for so many of our children. And I want to be clear, our state has been able to get this right in the past under both republican and democratic leadership. We have seen integrity in this space, we have seen strength in this space, and I know where we're going as it relates to monumental steps backwards. We all believe that that's not where we belong. But we've been able to do it before. And so I'm very, very confident that we can overcome this challenge.

Henderson: Let's move on to school choice. Kim Reynolds, I heard you give a speech in September at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event and you said you want every parent to have school choice. So does that mean an Arizona style law where parents in that state are now choosing to use state dollars to either send their kid to a public school, a private school or to home school?

Reynolds: Well, first of all, it's critical that we have a strong public school system. It's the foundation of our society and our state. And we want to make sure that we're adequately funding our public school systems. But we also, it's equally important that a parent has a choice in what they believe is the best environment for their child to thrive and be the best that they can be. And that choice should not be for only the people or families that have the resources to make that choice. We want to make sure that every child has every opportunity to succeed and be the best that they can be. And that's one of the reasons that I was so adamant about getting our kids back in the classroom during COVID. We passed a law to say that parents had the choice of getting their kids back 100% into school or 100% online and even after passing the legislation I had school districts that still sued me to keep the kids out of the classroom. And it was evidence that the online learning wasn't working, we were losing kids. Mental health, we talk about mental health, keeping kids out of school certainly didn't help that. But what was obvious is that parents that had the resources were able to find options, they were able to take that child and get them in a school whether it was private because they had the resources to do that or they were able to move to a different area, get their child into a school system so that they could learn and potentially play sports. But there were a lot of kids that didn't have that option, a lot of families. We had over 2,000 kids drop out in fiscal year '21, 733 of them were in the Des Moines Public School District. 92% of those kids were on free and reduced lunch, 66 were minority kids. Those kids didn't have the options. This is not a zero sum game. There is an opportunity to help all kids and to make our school stronger. And I just fundamentally believe that that choice should not only go to kids and families that have the resources. If education truly is the great equalizer then everybody should have that choice. And it's not a zero sum game. When we passed open enrollment there was a superintendent in eastern Iowa who said, I don't agree with the legislation, but it's passed and let me tell you this, I'm going to do everything that I can to make sure that we have the best school available, that the parents continue to want to go here and they want to send their kids here. And that’s really the kind of mindset that I think that we can get to. We have great schools across the state, most parents are going to want to keep their kids in that environment, but if your child is in a failing school or they're not getting what they need then they should have the option to put that child in a different environment.

DeJear: Again, this is an area in education that our state has had a history of exceling in under both republican and democratic leadership. And when it comes down to school choice, it shouldn't be a matter of a parent choosing from an exceling school or a failing school. All of our schools throughout this state need to be set up for success in every single district. But we are now asking our districts to do a whole lot more with a whole lot less, with a lack of robust funding that can actually help them do what they need to do in the school system. The legislature asked for a $300 million pick me up, if you will, to level set the budget and they did not get that. We know more than 90% of our students in this state are enrolled in public schools. And when the Governor had an opportunity to truly impact our schools in a positive way and get them set up for success in the next school year, rather than seeing robust legislation to invest in our schools and get the districts what they needed, the best that we saw was the idea that $55 million f taxpayer money go to assist 2% of our students in this state. It is very, very apparent that more than, that 100% of our students need the unyielding, undivided attention of our Governor to ensure that they are able to compete. But this year we had schools opening where they didn't have science teachers. We had schools opening that didn't have Spanish teachers. We have a system in this state where students were not only able to compete with their peers, they were able to leave this state and go and compete against the world. And I want to make sure that our system gets back to that basic essential function because we owe it to our students and we should give them nothing less.

Reynolds: I want to talk a little bit about the funding. We've increased funding year over year. I am proud of what we have been able to do for our K-12 education system and for education in general. Since republicans took control of the legislature and the Governor's Office, over a billion dollars of new money has gone into K-12 education. When you account for local, state and federal dollars that are going into K-12 education it's $8 billion a year. It's about $16,500 per student. So we are putting additional funding into education. But you've got to be careful about really, you don't want to fall in the trap of measuring the quality of education by the sheer number of dollars that you put into it. If we're not preparing our children to be successful for the future then we're failing. And I'll give Florida as an example. They actually allocate $2,000 per pupil less than Iowa and they were kind of at the middle of the pack in reading and math. Today they are 6th in reading, 6th best in the nation and 4th in math. And yet they allocate fewer dollars than we do. We need to be looking at the system. I'm so proud of what we've done with work-based learning and registered apprenticeship programming and STEM. We talk about teachers in that pipeline. We just launched the first in the country teacher-registered apprenticeship program and we have a thousand apprentices that are participating in that, 500 of them are students that are going into education. It will help them complete it a year quicker and reduce the cost, they can earn while they're learning, they're in the classroom with some of our best teachers. 500 of the 1,000 are paraeducators that would have the opportunity to continue their education if they so choose. So that is 100 new individuals that are apprentices that are interested in going into teaching that we just launched this year. And actually we've had the federal government look into the program because they were so impressed with it and one of the first states to do that in the country and that really is impacting our kids, it's connecting work and school, it's keeping them in the communities because they are finding out that there's great jobs right there in the community. 73% of our high schools have a registered apprenticeship or a work-based learning program and I'm really proud of that.

DeJear: Really quickly I'll just say that, again, when it comes down to what an individual has done and the effectiveness of what they have done back in '15 and '16 our state was about 77% in 3rd grade reading proficiency. Today we are about half of that, half of that. And when we look at 3rd grade reading scores we know that that is not an indicator, especially the challenges that we see with our 3rd grade reading scores, that is not an indicator for the jobs we're going to be filling, that is an indicator for the number of prison cells that we have to build. And so if we see that as evidence right before our eyes this is not a moment for us to talk about record investment, this is a moment for us to talk about how we are going to take responsibility of this challenge and resolve it. And I'll tell you, everywhere I go throughout this state talking with administrators, talking with teachers, talking with school board members, we are not short of vision in this state. Our districts clearly understand how they can move our students forward and how they can prepare them for that limitless future. They just need leadership who is willing to turn the lights on for them.

Reynolds: We tried to make reading by 3rd grade mandatory because that is when kids are transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. We actually tried to get that passed. We need to get that done. It was rejected by the union. So we're, there's a lot of positive things that are happening, TLC is a great example of that and a lot of the programs that we have put in place.

Murphy: I'm sorry to jump on you but we've got to move on as the clock is starting up against us and a lot of issues we'd still like to talk about. Staying in education though, Kim Reynolds, you recently signed onto a lawsuit that challenged President Biden's plan to relieve some student loan debt for college graduates. I wanted to ask you, we just talked about your school choice program, why is it okay to use taxpayer funding in your view to help students go to a private school but it's not okay for the government to provide some relief to college students with loan debt?

Reynolds: Well, because they signed a contract to get that loan and that they would pay that back. It does nothing to reduce the high cost of education. It does nothing but encourage bad borrowing practices. And if you're the truck driver or machinist or a nurse or a person that decided not to seek a college education, why should you be responsible in paying somebody else's off, especially when they often make more than you do? It's not right, it's not fair. People are upset about it and there were democrats as well as republicans that disagreed with the program that he has put in place. You certainly don’t hear him talking about it very much. But if you, I can tell you my family, I'll give you my family as an example. Our three daughters went to school, they worked the entire time that they were in school to try to keep the cost of that loan down. When kids were going on spring break they were working at a couple of jobs actually. I paid my school debt off, Kevin paid his school debt off. It took me a long time to get mine done, I was 57 by the time I walked across the state and got my bachelor's degree. So if you're out there trying to decide if it's too late, never give up. It's never too late to go back if that is a dream that you have and I share that story often. But it doesn't help keep the cost of higher education down. It just honestly encourages more borrowing because why wouldn't you go out and borrow if you think the government is going to come in and pay it off? And if you or a truck driver or a waitress made a decision not to go to work but decided to go right into the workforce, why should you be responsible in paying somebody else's loan?

DeJear: Just to quickly respond, I know truck drivers with student loans, I know wait staff with student loans, I know nurses with student loans. The fact of the matter is the cap on this is about $20,000 at most. It's going to impact nearly 405,000 Iowans if they so choose to go through the process. She's stating that this is unfair but one of the other stipulations in this lawsuit as I read is that people who do embark on this process, what the federal government has decided is that states cannot tax this loan forgiveness. And so our Governor talks a great deal of putting dollars back into people's pockets. That 405,000 folks at a cap of $20,000 in loan forgiveness, for most folks that's not even a drop in the bucket. But in addition to that up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness, the fact that they can also reap the benefit of the state not taxing that revenue as well is good for people. This is an opportunity to get people's dollars back into their pockets so that they can maximize the potential of those resources. And one of the things that she said is that this does not make college more affordable. That is correct. The state -- I believe that --

Murphy: What do we do about that? Would you propose freezing tuition at Iowa's universities --

DeJear: No, I believe that, again, when we talk about investment in education it's not just K-12, it's our post-secondary as well. Those 81,000 some odd jobs that we have to fill today, not all of them require two year and four year degrees, but we know we have a nursing shortage, we know we have challenges with health care, we know we have challenges with education and mental health care and these are all roles that require a post-secondary degree. And so I want to make college more affordable in this state. It used to be that we funded our Regents three-fourths of their budget, now we're funding them a fourth of their budget. I was on one of our campuses earlier in this cycle and was asking them about the budget and they mentioned that they had to find, in this specific department, a million dollars. And I asked them, okay where are you going to take that million dollars from? They said, work study. If we want folks to fill these jobs we have to make sure that the pathway to access higher education is accessible and affordable and that means that we take that onus and that responsibility at the state level and it starts at the Governor's Office.

Reynolds: This is a President that has paid people to stay home, increased inflation, we see soaring inflation and just cost of living. But I'll tell you some of the ways we're helping address the high cost of higher education. We're the number one state in the country for dual enrollment. We have continued to work with our community colleges so that kids can take college courses while they're in high school. We have a lot of our kids that are graduating not only with a high school degree but with an associate's degree and that really helps reduce the cost of college. The registered apprenticeship programs, again, that I've talked about, especially with the educator-registered apprenticeship program, that shaves a whole year off of the cost of an individual getting their license in teaching. So some of those programs that we have put in place have helped reduce the higher cost of living. But there's a lot of kids out there that don't want to go to school, that have made the choice to go directly into work and to earn a career and not have any debt and to have a great opportunity at a great career in the state.

DeJear: Which is why we have to fund K-12 education because many of our students in rural and suburban Iowa and urban Iowa cannot afford to go to college, they want to get a job right after high school. We have to make that pathway available.

Price: Let's talk about science class here. Carbon sequestration pipelines. So we have three of these things proposed for our state here. At the end of the day they need our property to tunnel these things underneath so they can take the carbon from the ethanol plants out of state here to really dumb this down so that I can understand it. So when you get to the point that a property owner says, no I don't want this to happen -- Kim Reynolds, let's start with you on this one -- should it be the Iowa Utilities Board or should it be the legislature that decides when a private business can require you to grant access?

Reynolds: Well, first of all, eminent domain should only be used as a last resort and legislators put a lot of time quite some time ago putting legislation in place that really it puts a process in place, it says that eminent domain should only be used as a last resort. But if it is used they want to make sure that our landowners are being fairly reimbursed for utilizing eminent domain. So there's a process in place and it starts with voluntary easements and then it goes to the utility board. One of the things that I have been focused on as Governor is agriculture is a really important industry to this state, it's the backbone of our economy. And we need to make sure as Governor that I'm doing everything I can to add value and to grow the opportunity for markets, for what our farmers produce. We grow 10% of the nation's food supply, we feed and fuel the world. And so we need to make sure that not only am I maintaining existing markets, I'm looking for new markets for trade and then I'm adding value to what I produce and what we produce and that is one of the reasons I passed --

Price: So if it comes to eminent domain is that what it just may have to be?

Reynolds: Well, it's a balance and so I have to take a look at that. But that is what I'm saying, that's why we passed the biofuels bill. 55% of our corn goes to ethanol plants today and if they lose that, if we lose the renewable fuel industry, that will have a tremendous impact on farmers. This has been something that has really helped this generation sustain and grow and add value to what they produce. We want to make sure that we're taking into account the next generation of farmers so that we have opportunities to add that value too. Real quick, that's what we did, that's why I pushed the biofuels bill. That's a piece of this. We're the first state in the country to have an E15 standard and that will really set the stage to add significant growth and value to our corn and soy producers and really sets us up to continue to grow that. So we should take a look at it, there's a process in place and I would support the laws that are on the books.

Price: You have criticized the use of eminent domain. As Governor, what would you then do to protect homeowners who don't want this coming through?

DeJear: There was a bill that came through the legislature this year for that very purpose and I would have definitely championed that. My great-grandmother was a sharecropper. My husband's family are cattle ranchers. And as I travel throughout this state being a person who has a very great deal of affection to small business owners I see our farmers in that same light. They are providing goods to not only this state but they are providing goods to this world and I want to make sure that our agricultural sustainability is well taken care of. But more importantly we have to make sure that the farmer is well taken care of, that if we're asking them to do something, to change the business model of their business that we’re making it worth their while. But the fact of the matter is, there are ways that we can fund environmental sustainability in this state and we pride ourselves in feeding the world and fueling this country, we should also be leading in environmental sustainability as well whether the farmer has two acres or they have 5,000 acres.

Price: Just to put a finer point on it, so as Governor if I own the property, I don't want the pipeline going through, we have negotiated it, I say no, you'll pass something that allows me to say no it's not coming through and it doesn't come through?

DeJear: Yes, sir. I believe that the landowner should have power in this situation because they put their blood, sweat and tears into their land.

Henderson: Kim Reynolds, in 2018 I covered you signing a bill into law that created a six week abortion ban in Iowa with some exceptions. That was the toughest law in the country when you signed it. There are now other states that have tougher laws. Do you want Iowa's law to now be tougher when it comes to abortion?

Reynolds: Well, I am pro-life, Kay, you know that. I believe we should do everything we can to protect the life of the unborn. In 2018, as you indicated, I signed the heartbeat bill with exceptions. It got enjoined with the ruling on Roe v. Wade, we have asked the courts to revisit that. And so that is where we're going to put our efforts into making that bill actually become law. And so we'll wait until the courts rule but that's where the fight is right now. But in addition to that, not only did we pass the heartbeat bill, but we worked really hard to enhance maternal health issues, we have two pilot programs working with the Grinnell hospital and in Carroll and it is focused on maternal health care. They have had some really great outcomes from that. So next year we want to expand that. We've expended safe haven laws from 30 days to 90. We passed the Mom's Act this year that more option and supports for maternal health. So again, my goal is to provide birth control over the counter. So we want to make sure that we have adoption, that we're enhancing and making sure people know, families know that those are an option as well. So I signed the heartbeat bill. We have continued to work with legislation or different support systems that we can put in place to help maternal health. We'll build that out next year.

Henderson: So does the fight stop at six weeks or does it go to a total ban?

Reynolds: My goal is to make the law that is on the books law and it is in the courts and you won't be surprised at this response, but when it's going through the courts I'm not going to weigh in either way. But my goal is to make sure that we keep, we make the law that is on the books law.

Henderson: Deidre DeJear, do you want current law, which is essentially a 20-week line, to be the status quo? Or do you have another proposal?

DeJear: This is a subject matter that prior to this election cycle it was challenging for folks to have because you had activists on both sides with very, very strong opinions and what I'm finding now more so than anything is that more people are willing to have the discussion about choice. Over the summer when SCOTUS decided to relinquish their responsibility to protect a woman's right to choose to the states it became ever more clear that governors were on the front line in protecting this right. As the next governor I am not going to criminalize women, I am not going to criminalize nurses, I'm not going to criminalize doctors, women for getting access to the care that they need and doctors and nurses for providing that care. The fact of the matter is pregnancy has infinite variables and we know so much more now than we knew 20, 30 years from today. My mother, again, died three days after my little sister was born, the science that we have now if used back then could have kept my mother and my little sister alive. I believe that it is undemocratic and irresponsible for us to try to dictate in black and white this situation that has infinite variables as it relates to pregnancy. And so I want to codify Roe in our state because that had the reasonable restrictions with exceptions that most of America agreed upon. And I realize that again now that the fight is in the state's hands and so we have to defend it right here in the state.

Reynolds: Well, do you believe then that a woman can abort a baby right up until it's born? Do you believe in late-term abortion?

DeJear: That's a really good question. And what I believe is that my personal belief has no space in a woman's doctor's appointment. When she goes into that doctor to make a decision that is within her best interest that that is her decision and my personal belief should not be in that room and no other politician's opinion should be in that room. And I'm coming as a woman of faith, I'm coming as a woman of faith and they say in the Bible that the prudent act with knowledge. And what we know now about access to abortions, access to routine reproductive care is that we have to do a stronger job of applying what we know to the law or getting the law out of it. And I'll tell you this, I'll tell you this, when I was a senior in high school I was volunteering at one of the No Child Left Behind schools in an after school program, I was tutoring a third grader who is probably about this high, and as I was tutoring her she was a growing third grader but there came a day when she got to school and she could not button her pants. And so here I was trying to help her button her pants and as I felt her belly it was tight. And I went to my mom and I said, mama I think she's pregnant. And my mama took her to the nurse's office. Come to find out that little third grader was three months pregnant with extremities and trying to dictate and regulate pregnancy in black and white the way that our Governor chooses to do. That little girl has minimal options if any at all and we cannot put Iowans in those types of situations. My faith teaches me to trust people and I trust women to make that decision.

Reynolds: So it's late-term abortions, they believe that you can abort a baby right up until the moment it's born.

DeJear: That's not what you just heard from me.

Reynolds: Yeah, that is what you're saying but you're not answering the question. You are saying that it's up to that woman to decide. That is late-term abortion, that is not where Iowans are at, that is not where Americans are at.

DeJear: The vast majority of abortion care is not late-term abortions.

Reynolds: Our daughter was a month premature and there are states already doing that, there are several states that have already made that a law, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, New Jersey now have on the books that you can abort a baby right up until that baby is born, that even if you're had an abortion and it is botched and that baby is born alive that you can kill that baby after it is born. Walk through the halls of a NICU where my grandchildren have been and look at those teeny tiny babies in there that are fighting for their life, a parent that is sitting there praying for that baby to survive, with innovation and technology that we have today the thought of killing an eight month old baby like my daughter a month premature, killing that baby in the womb is disgusting and horrifying and I do not believe that that is where most Americans are at and that is where they want to go. They don't want to answer that question. It's extreme, that is an extreme position and it's bad.

DeJear: And as we see the Governor is very, very passionate personally about this issue and her crusade against choice has not only minimized access to abortion care in this state but it has limited access to routine reproductive health care, mamas in more than 80 counties in our state do not have access to an OBGYN. I spoke with a mother in northeastern Iowa, she was five months pregnant, an insured mother and had yet to get in to see an OBGYN. I work with organizations, this is also a part of the work that I do, I work with organizations to ensure that women have access to maternal health care in light of the lack of access that this Governor is providing across the state.

Henderson: We have a minute left --

Reynolds: OBGYN doctors are leaving the state because of tort reform and some of the laws that we have on the books right now so that is a big reason that they're leaving the state.

Henderson: We have a minute left. If you are elected to a four-year term, will you serve the term? And what sort of preparations have you discussed with Adam Gregg were that to occur?

Reynolds: Well, I'm concentrating on winning this election. I have been so honored to serve as the Governor of this great state. I am proud of my record. I'm proud of the contrast to what we see coming out of the Biden administration and the fact that democrats in Iowa want to bring that tax and spend policy, woke ideology and indoctrination of our children into the state of Iowa. We want to keep reducing taxes, we want to keep supporting parents, we want to keep our communities safe and continue to grow this economy and make sure that we have growth and prosperity in every single corner of the state. So Kay, I'm focusing on getting re-elected and continuing the great momentum that we've had over the last four years. I would put my record up against what we're seeing coming out of the Biden administration. I'm excited about the opportunity to continue to serve.

Henderson: Deidre DeJear, 30 seconds to you, what discussions have you had with your running mate Eric Van Lancker if, like Kim Reynolds, you would be elected Governor and you would ascend to the governorship?

DeJear: It would be time to get to work. Iowans are hardworking people and we see time and time again how Iowans all over this state are making due with what they have. As I said earlier, Iowans are not short of vision. They just need leadership who is willing to turn the lights on for them. This election cycle is not about the R behind our name or the D behind our name, folks. As we're talking about the issues, rural revitalization, access to education and health care, all of these things mean something to people regardless of their political identity. It's about the I behind our name and that stands for Iowans and I'm running for all of Iowa so that we can work collectively together to move all 99 counties forward the way that we have done before but we need leadership to help us do it again.

Henderson: On behalf of the viewers of this hour-long conversation, thank you both for sharing your views.

Reynolds: Thanks for the opportunity, appreciate it.

DeJear: Thank you, appreciate it.

Henderson: This concludes our Iowa Press Debate series. If you missed part of this discussion or want to watch the debates that we've had on previously you can go to On behalf of every one of this hardworking Iowa PBS crew, I thank you for watching.


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