Ross Wilburn answered the Coalition’s seven questions on child and family policy issues. Read how he plans to address these issues if he were to become Iowa’s next Governor.
Budgeting for Iowa’s Priorities
What is your plan to tackle tax policy issues to ensure a stable and adequate state general fund to pay for Iowa priorities, like children’s health, safety, education, economic security, and development?
I would have my team examine the tax structure looking at ways to produce a more progressive tax system. I will revisit (annually) the corporate tax breaks given, rolling back those that are not providing a return on investment that is benefiting the public in terms of jobs produced (higher salaries and benefits), whether the business is part of producing sustainable clean energy industry and jobs, whether the impact is benefitting smaller to medium size industries, and whether they have a history of being a good corporate community steward. My emphasis or corporate tax incentives will be similar to what we attempted when I served as Mayor and 12 year city council member, which tended to be short to medium term incentive, so that the business would be back on the revenue producing side of taxes to benefit Iowans.
Family Economic Security
What actions will you take to reduce multigenerational poverty and ensure that all children have access to equal opportunities to achieve success?
We need a legislature elected to help create a more progressive tax system. When awarding corporate tax incentives, I would rank higher businesses that will produce higher wages for employees. If you and your organizations help elect a legislature that will enact a raise in the minimum wage, then I would sign that into law, indexed with inflation or indexed to federal poverty indexes towards a livable wage. If a legislature is not enacted to raise the minimum wage, then I would try to negotiate through the budget process an exchange to return the right of counties to enact a local increase in their minimum wage, which was removed by action of the current Legislature and Governor. I will use public dollars for public education in order to ensure our public education system is strong and high quality education and teachers are accessible to all youth. I will emphasize that funding towards human services with an orientation towards prevention and promote collaboration between state departments (Education, Human Services, Human Rights, etc.)
Early Education and Child Care
How will you support affordable child care and access to programs, promote the importance of quality, and address child care workforce needs?
Funding our childcare and other children’s programs requires cleaning up the state budget on the revenue side. Enacting the tax reforms and credits that I listed earlier in order to ensure we are able to give high priority to childcare and other children, youth, and family services. Promoting multi-year budgeting for the state could add stability to funding critical childcare and children’s services. Increasing the state minimum wage for a livable wage or at a minimum returning the right to counties to raise the minimum wage in their communities, so childcare workers can make a living doing the work that they have chosen and love to do. In addition, a critical role the state can play is through training for workers through Empowerment [Early Childhood Iowa] or other systems in place and so that there is critical local decision making to meet the needs of specific communities.
Afterschool and Summer Learning
How would you ensure that all children and youth have access to high-quality before- and afterschool and summer programming?
Iowans have strongly indicated to me that they support public dollars going towards public education. It is an investment in all our young people and the future of our communities to do so. I support, along with Iowans support for curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular options which build the 21st Century Skills of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. I would direct all of the state departments that receive funding for education and support services develop a strategic plan for collaboration between themselves and our human service organizations and coalitions to reach as many of our young people with opportunities in programming and communities. Again, it comes down to reprioritizing our state budget and creating as great a stability on the revenue side of the leger. I have always believed that it isn’t about small or large government, but it should be effective size government for creating a foundation of opportunities for the physical and mental health of our young people, so that we can maximize their potential.
Funding our childcare and other children’s programs requires cleaning up the state budget on the revenue side. Enacting the tax reforms and credits that I listed earlier in order to have revenue available to ensure we are able to give high priority to children, youth, and family services. Promoting multi-year budgeting for the state could add stability to funding critical childcare and children’s services. I’m not attempting to be repetitive, but when you ask for assurance of programming, it directly relates to budgeting, coordination between systems of state and local government, private and public partnerships. I would work to change the relationship between the Governor’s office and our provider’s network and dedicate time for direct input directly through a direct gubernatorial staff member for annual input on how the state systems are working, areas that are not being addressed in the state, and future planning.
Health and Well-Being
What actions will you take to ensure access to services to address the developmental, emotional, and mental health needs of infants, children and young adults?
As a state, we will pay for mental health issues one way or another; proactively and in a planned way with a comprehensive mental health care system of prevention, intervention, treatment, and education; or with increasing numbers of tragic deaths and suicides, or with an overburden criminal justice system and untapped potential in our young people. Mental illness impacts most Iowans. I’m confident that Iowans will support lifting the property tax cap to help support their family, friends, and neighbors and increase their potential to live healthy lives and potential to thrive in our communities. I will attempt to put in place a single payer health insurance public option to cover care, but we need your help to put a legislature in place to pass legislation to be signed into law.
Safety and Security
What actions will you take to reduce the number of children who are subject to abuse and neglect, and how will you ensure that youth aging out of the foster care system have a promising future?
Working with state department and providers to help ensure we have a comprehensive mental health care system is a start. Reversing privatized Medicaid is another way to ensure certainty of services, as well as that providers are receiving proper payment for the services that they provide. Ensuring that there is an emphasis and prevention, but that we have the tiers of intervention, treatment, and education will be important across all state departments involved in some way with the lives of our young people. I welcome any suggestion that you wish to bring to my attention with the state departments, so that we have adequate policy, practice, and personnel in place to ensure safety and a promising future for youth.
How will you address the issue of human trafficking and ensure the broad-based training needed to educate all Iowans that serve, teach, protect, respond or utilize our natural resources?
I support mandatory reporter training improvements that relate to human trafficking, age appropriate sex abuse and anti-human trafficking school education, increases the criminal penalty for traffickers, making forced labor trafficking a felony, and other legislative recommendations put forth by the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery. I would actively lobby the US Congress to strengthen federal legislation that helps take action and enforcement of anti-human trafficking efforts. It is critical to reduce and eliminate the tragedy of human trafficking and the negative impact on Iowans.
This questionnaire was developed by the Children’s Policy Coalition and shared with all gubernatorial campaigns. Candidates were given the option to respond to these questions through an in-person meeting, submitting written responses, or both. All responses are printed without editing.