MARION – A key legislator in state budget discussions and his challenger presented opposing views on how best to make use of Iowa’s best financial position in years.
Rep. Nick Wagner, R-Marion, who is in line to lead the House Appropriations Committee that crafts budgets, called for returning surplus funds to Iowa taxpayers.
His Democratic challenger, Daniel Lundby, also of Marion, told a League of Women Voters forum Thursday night the state’s flush financial position should allow it “to reinvest in what makes Iowa great.”
Lundby and Wagner are squaring off in House 68, which cover most of Marion and southern Marion Township, as well as Bertram Township, including the communities of Ely and Bertram. There’s a slight Democratic voter registration advantage in House 68. The Secretary of State reports there are 6,999 Democrats, 6,574 Republicans and 8,559 no party voters.
Wagner, 38, a former Marion City Council member, said Iowans should keep more of their money.
“I wasn’t elected to raise taxes and increase the cost of being an Iowan,” Wagner said.
However, given the fact the state’s rainy day funds are full and revenues are projected to continue to increase, Lundby said it was possible to increase funding for education.
He was critical of Wagner for voting for 0 percent allowable growth for K-12 schools.
“I don’t understand how 0 percent is even an option,” said Lundby, 36, the son of the late Sen. Mary Lundby, a Marion Republican. “We have the largest reserve since the 1990s.”
Wagner pointed out that the Legislature approved backfilling school funding to make up for earlier cuts and the $200 million-plus increase in education funding was one of the largest in state history.
The candidates avoided taking a pro or con position on a proposal for a Cedar Rapids casino. Both said the decision should be up to Linn County voters and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
Neither was supportive of the state financing a passenger rail link from Iowa City to Chicago. Wagner noted Amtrak’s “significant” losses and heavy subsidies as reasons for the state not to get involved.
“Putting new technical and heavy things on Iowa’s plate shouldn’t be put ahead of other priorities,” Lundby said.
In regard to roads and bridges, he proposed a “diesel tax” for heavy trucks, which he said are responsible for the worst damage to Iowa’s transportation infrastructure.
Wagner said the Legislature must make sure road funds are being used effectively “before we throw more money at transportation.”
Wagner, an electrical engineer at Esco Group, won a contested open-seat race in 2008 despite a Democratic takeover of the House, and ran unopposed in 2010.
Wagner has been the vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for two years. With the retirement of the chairman, he is in line to lead the committee that crafts state budgets.
Lundby, an Iowa State University graduate with a degree in fashion and textiles, is starting a graphic textile business with an emphasis on quilting and digital fabric design.
The League will host a Senate 34 forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at KTOS, 3375 Amar Dr. in Marion, with Democratic Sen. Liz Mathis and Republican Ryan Flood, both of Cedar Rapids.
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