BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MT. PLEASANT – A base approach to politics and a passion for helping stem the conservative tide in recent Iowa policies has Jason Moats running for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives.
Moats, a 36-year-old a Iowa correctional trades instructor in Mt. Pleasant, is challenging Republican Joe Mitchell of Wayland to take the place of retiring Iowa Rep. Dave Heaton-R of Mt. Pleasant in the 84th district of the Iowa House. Moats has been with the Iowa Department of Corrections in Coralville for about 12 years. Prior to that he was in construction fields.
The 84th district comprises Henry County and parts of Washington, Jefferson, and northern Lee County.
Moats is taking his first crack at public office and says Iowa is heading in the wrong direction with regards to collective bargaining, education funding, public health, and a variety of issues.
He grew up in Monticello and his parents were blue collar workers. The family helped with Moats’ grandfather’s farm with crops and livestock.
“I’m not a stranger to hard work and I plan on working hard for the residents of District 84,” Moats said.
“Working hard was something that was instilled in me and helping those in need, whether that was a neighboring farm with someone who was ill, or a farmer that was five miles away. Helping people to get things done, that’s part of me and half the reason why I pursued the career with corrections. I’m able to help Iowans stay safe by watching over offenders in the prison.”
Moats said he wanted to take that a step further. He said it’s tough for him to sit back and complain about situations if he’s not doing anything about it. He said he feels a duty to get issues such as Medicaid, education, taxes, and mental health issues that are hurting Iowans, back on the table.
“Seeing the middle class get knocked down by the “tweaking” of Chapter 20 and now hearing talk the last couple years about “tweaking” IPERS and cutting it out and going to a defined contribution – with 350,000 people belonging to IPERS – these people worked that job for years and they are counting on that contribution.”
He said IPERS is self-sustaining and he contributes to IPERS as a state employee himself..
“That’s paying their retirement. If they cut that off, the state has to pay it, it’s a benefit, but the court system will have to decide on it. When Detroit took that away, a court ruled a settlement of 70 cents on the dollar. That’s just not right. If they change this and they only say he gets half of what he’s contributed, that’s a slap to the face of those people. I’m strong about keeping IPERS the way it is.”
He said people retiring on IPERs traditionally stay in the area and that money stays in the state. Moats said when Chapter 20 was changed we lost good teachers to a marketing campaign from Minnesota.
Moats said he believes if the state funnels more money to education, teachers will get better pay. The benefits need to be kept where they are and the state needs to help with insurance. He spoke of an area educator who writes a check for her insurance. He said the teacher doesn’t get a paycheck from the school as all that money goes toward her family insurance and she has to write a check for an additional $200 to cover the cost.
He said the funding allocations are not following cost of living increases. He said he spoke with the school board in Winfield and officials said they would like to see more funding toward Pre-K programs.
“We sent our three children through preschool and that’s beneficial. We need to have more teachers to cover the classrooms and the books and supplies are falling behind. After this year, teachers can no longer deduct supplies they purchase for their classroom. They took that away from them,” he said.
He said instructors need to be paid what they are worth and give them tools to do their jobs.
“They are teaching the future of our nation and our state and we need to help them where we can,” Moats said.
He said some of the budgets need to be moved into trades programs to help fill some of the skills gaps that exist in rural Iowa settings now.
“Nowadays, trades work pays pretty well, because of the lack of people with the skills to do those jobs,” he said. “Not everyone can go to college and we need to help people see that working with their hands can land them a pretty good job and create wealth rather than debt.”
“There is a time and a place for making money, but making money off the sick and disabled in Iowa is just wrong,” Moats said. “Especially when our tax dollars are being used.”
He said he’s had conversations with the Iowa Hospital Association who claim there are ways to bring overhead under control. Moats said administrative costs were about 4% and now they are upwards of 15%. He said officials there indicated the state could bring those costs back down to 4%.
“I don’t know for a fact if that’s the best or not, but I want to look at other states to see what they are doing because we have to take care of our people,” he said.
“My opponent said in a forum the other night, it’s getting better. It’s not getting better. Look at the area hospitals here in town and Fort Madison that have had to join with Burlington to stay open. These places aren’t getting reimbursed.”
Moats said it’s time to pull in the reigns on insurance companies with regard to the high salaries and costs associated.
“We need to start by going back to the state run health care until we get this figured out. We should go to the companies that are currently being paid to cover these people and get the money back out of them,” Moats said. “I don’t know how we get that done, but if you look at Europe, everybody gets free healthcare and no one’s making millions off that. No one can afford health care and the greed there is slowly diminishing people.”
Moats said the changes were by the governor, but the legislature could have intervened to stop the mess he says has been created.
“I’m all ears and willing to sit down and listen and weigh out everything if people have good ideas.”
Moats said he wants to get more information on where Iowan’s taxes are being spent. He cited the privatization of FMLA where the state paid an out-of-state company $32,000 a month.
“We have HR departments in our workplaces that can be handling this. They were handling that up to this point and now we’re spending a quarter of a million dollars a year on something that we can do right here. That money can be spent on health care or education,” Moats said.
Moats said the state needs to re-energize and increase funding for the Department of Natural Resources so the state experts are affecting the change that is needed instead of waiting for private enterprise to maybe do it.
He said coming from a farming background, the bushels per acre have tripled since his grandfather farmed. He said he believed in bumper strips and creating oversight of large farming operations to make sure their tanks are leeching off into the ground water supply.
“My grandfather didn’t apply chemicals on the ground. He believed in the natural rotation of crops and kept a field for cattle hay but he also worked his butt off milking cows, having stock cows, shelling corn for other farmers and getting his own crops in. The hay would bring nutrients back into the ground and would spread hay on the field for that as well.”
Iowa relies heavily on farming and I don’t know how we go about that other than starting by better funding the Department of Natural Resources,” Moats said.
Moats said two-thirds of the fertilizer plant’s employees are from out of state. He said the Apple officials didn’t request assistance for their expansion in Des Moines.
“But they took it, didn’t they? I’d like to see our smaller businesses thrive, that’s what our state and nation is all about. These larger corporations, I get what they were after, the trickle-down economics of it. The theory is if the corporations make more money, then they can grow and offer more job. But what we’re seeing is there is no growth and people aren’t making more money. The corporate pockets are growing and we need to put an end to that and help the smaller mom and pop places,” he said.
He said he small businesses create jobs, too and if those people are paid well the people stay and taxes are paid right here in Iowa.
“Nobody seems to know where our tax dollars are going. I want to know where we can cut, instead of the known places of education, public safety, and the health care system. I want to know where those dollars are at. The company out of state managing FMLA, that’s money we can bring back. Medicaid, I want to touch on that, and mental health, and get these programs back in shape.
“I am down to earth and straight-forward. Not afraid to stir the pot and get things going. I’m tired of politicians listening to lobbyists and their party. At the end of the day our tax dollars pay the politicians, so they should be working for the people of their district. That’s another push of why I’m doing this, I’m tired of the people I voted for not representing me. We need change and I want to be that change.”