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Candidate forum — Edler, Degner tout common sense

District 36 senate candidates both vowed to bring common sense to the state house during a forum hosted by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Incumbent Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, said he has fulfilled what he set out to do when he took office in 2016.

“It was to take common sense back to state government in the areas of budgeting, education, prosperity, integrity of the vote and following the Constitution,” Edler said. “We had such a poor tax environment we could not attract business without tax credits. We actively sought to fix that problem. We had voted in the largest tax cut in Iowa history that will continue to roll out over the next few years.”

Edler’s opponent David Degner, D-Traer, also evoked “common sense” as a quality he hopes to bring to the senate.

“I am tired of the hate and division that we’re seeing in our state government and our federal government,” he said. “I would like to bring some independent thought and some bipartisanship and some common sense back to state government,”

He referenced building a budget surplus as one of the key accomplishments achieved during his first term, but Degner warned that building that surplus came at a cost.

“Just so we’re clear, that surplus, I think, has largely come on the backs of vulnerable people here in the state of Iowa by the lack of adequate services,” Degner said. “We’ve cut education funding; it’s not even keeping up with the rate of inflation. The Medicaid privatization disaster here in Iowa continues to rise faster than it did under public management.”

Edler said the surplus should be preserved but Iowans should receive tax relief.

“Just handing that out because we have it is not an option,” he said. “There’s going to be frustrations when you don’t have that money.”

Degner suggested some of the funds could be used to offset the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sometime here in the last 48 hours the total death toll in the United States from COVID-19 has exceeded the population of Des Moines,” he said. “That is a very large population of people who have passed away needlessly. We need to be much more proactive and if those funds are available we can step up and help.”

Degner discussed his goals to address health care as one of his top priorities should he be elected in November.

“In rural Iowa, there’s just a health care desert for folks who might be 45 minutes to an hour away from an emergency room,” he said. “That’s just unacceptable to me.”

Edler, who served on the Mental Health and Disability Services Funding Study Committee, cited two pieces of legislation he helped pass as examples of his ability to do the job. He co-drafted the “complex needs” legislation for mental health which is aimed at keeping mental health patients out of hospitals and jails. He also aided in the creation of the Children’s Behavioral Health System and serves on its state board.

“If people come to me with a problem you don’t have to go too far to ask did you get results,” Edler said.

When asked how they plan to help the business community fill gaps in its workforce needs, both candidates discussed a need to support education, especially at the community college level.

“Future Ready Iowa has been great. Last-Dollar Scholar is a great way to get people into those mid-level skilled jobs,” Edler said. “I see a very positive future with the programs that we’ve put in place to fill those job needs.”

Degner mentioned the cost of education specifically, calling for creating more incentives for job training and apprenticeship programs. He also suggested that the cost of higher education at universities needs to be brought down.

“So people that want to receive that job training and that education can do it and not be forced into a lifetime of debt just to be able to get a good paying job in the state of Iowa,” he said.

The candidates agreed that improvements are needed to repair the state’s transportation infrastructure and that cooperation at the federal level would be the right path to accomplish this.

Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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