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Iowa House District 92: 'Commonsense' newcomer faces 'stay the course' incumbent
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Iowa House District 92: 'Commonsense' newcomer faces 'stay the course' incumbent

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One is a first-time candidate pledging to be a moderate, Democratic voice in a Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature. The other is a four-term incumbent with a focus on cutting taxes and holding the reins on government spending.

Accountant and small-business owner Jennifer Kakert of Blue Grass, is running against Republican incumbent Ross Paustian of Walcott for the Iowa House District 92 seat.

Paustian has been in and out of office since 2010 in a section of Scott County that includes the rural, western part of the county, along with Eldridge and parts of north and west Davenport.

Kakert said she is running with a focus on stronger public education funding, affordable health care and "working across party lines, finding common-sense and balanced solutions."

Paustian,a fifth-generation crop and livestock farmer who chairs the Iowa House Agriculture Committee, said he's running "to stay the course" in "holding the line on the budget and tax reductions," and to continue to block proposed moratoriums on large livestock confinements in Iowa.

Environmentalists have repeatedly pushed state lawmakers to strengthen rules overseeing livestock confinement operations. The groups argue that manure from confinements used to fertilizer farm fields contribute to high levels of nitrates that add to toxic algal blooms in Iowa lakes and rivers, and threaten human health and drinking water.

Farm groups have strongly opposed a moratorium or any significant change to Iowa's livestock regulations.

"A livestock facility is a good way for a young farmer to get started in the business," Paustian said. "And to take that option away from them isn’t going to help agriculture in any way."

As for protecting the environment, Paustian pointed to legislation passed in 2018 that seeks to allocate an estimated $282 million to water quality initiatives over the next 12 years.

Paustian, in addition to continuing his role "as promoting Iowa agriculture," said he is also running "to continue the course we’ve been on with fiscal responsibility."

Paustian pointed to a study commissioned by the non-partisan Council of State Governments, which found that Iowa is the most fiscally sound, most resilient state in the country when it comes to battling through COVID-19. The findings, he said, validate the conservative budgeting Republicans have implemented over the last several years.

Kakert contends Republicans have been focused on cutting income taxes and providing corporate tax giveaways, while short changing vital programs like education and health care services.

State lawmakers this spring passed a 2.3% increase in per-pupil state aid and a total of nearly $100 million in additional funding for Iowa K-12 schools.

Kakert argues the funding and past increases have not been enough for schools to keep up with inflation and rising health care costs.

"I feel like in the last four years, education has not been a priority," she said. "I feel the cost increases should be more in line with 3% to 4%, and I feel they've only gotten halfway there."

Paustian argues Republicans have provided strong investment in Iowa schools and defended his track record in providing funding for education.

As for health care, Kakert supports legislation that would prohibit insurers in Iowa from disqualifying Iowans with pre-existing medical conditions from purchasing a health insurance policy or cause them to pay significantly higher premiums, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Affordable Care Act. 

She also supports reversing Iowa's privatized Medicaid system, would work to lower prescription drug prices, and suggested support for a government-run public option for health insurance. Such an option, she said, could potentially reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other health care providers and bring relief to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees.

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