By Mike Brownlee
Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nate Boulton focused on public safety during a rally at the Council Bluffs firefighters union hall.
The state senator from Des Moines has earned the endorsement of the state’s firefighters union along with the Council Bluffs firefighters of Local 15.
“I am proud in this campaign to stand with public safety officers across the state,” Boulton told a crowd of about 50 people on Tuesday night at the union hall on South Eighth Street.
Boulton discussed the need to fix the state budget. A nonpartisan group that reviews Iowa’s finances has estimated a shortfall of about $37 million in the current $7.2 billion state budget. Additionally, the Legislative Services Agency said in late December that the next state budget, set to go into effect in July, has an expected shortfall of about $65 million. That’s due to built-in increases like plans to return money to Iowa’s emergency reserves, which helped plug previous budget shortfalls.
“That has compromised public safety. We have fewer dollars to make our streets safe,” Boulton said.
The candidate said the shortfall is “inexplicable” during a time when the state’s economy is sound and unemployment is low. He blamed the trouble in large part on the overextension of corporate tax incentives.
“That should be unacceptable to Iowans,” Boulton said.
The state senator represents District 16, which includes the northeast side of Des Moines and the suburb of Pleasant Hill. With the Legislature set to resume next week, Boulton said, “We’ve got some tough fights ahead of us right now.”
“We will continue the work of standing up to an agenda that has done nothing but hold back and take away from working communities,” he told the crowd.
Boulton criticized the 2017 legislative session, which saw a reduction in collective bargaining rights, a change to worker’s compensation law and set a statewide minimum wage, which Boulton noted lowered the minimum wage in five Iowa counties.
“Think about the opportunity that was had with the control of state government,” Boulton said, noting both houses of the Legislature plus the governor’s office were controlled by Republicans. “The positive things that could’ve been accomplished. Instead, 2017 was defined by all that could be taken away.”
Seth Kolar, a 10-year veteran with the Council Bluffs Fire Department, said he supports Boulton because “He give’s us a voice.”
Kolar criticized the legislature’s collective bargaining bill — which removed the right to negotiate anything but wages for almost all public employees, excluding public safety.
“After last session, what they attacked, we’re working to help all wokers — union and non-union,” Kolar said. “We want to stand together with candidates that fight for us.”
Doug Irwin of Council Bluffs stopped by the event to hear Boulton’s take on the condition of the state and the future for Iowa. He said his top issues are education, where he said he disagreed with recent cuts affecting universities and community colleges, and mental health, another area that’s seen cuts and the closure of buildings and programs.
“I’m trying to get all the information I can about the candidates,” Irwin said.
Boulton is among a crowded Democratic field looking to earn the party’s nomination for governor. Other candidates include the president of Service Employees International Union Local 199, Cathy Gleeson, businessman Fred Hubbell, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire, former Des Moines school board member Jon Neiderbach, former chief of staff to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, John Norris — a Red Oak native — and former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn.
A poll by 20-20 Insight of Atlanta conducted in early November showed Hubbell in the lead with 22 percent of the vote, followed by Boulton at 13 percent. Forty-seven percent of voters were undecided. The company spoke with 762 Iowans and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.
The Democratic primary will be held on June 5, with the general election set for Nov. 6.