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NDN Election Central Q&A: Democrat Wes Breckenridge

Name: Wes Breckenridge

City: Newton

Office sought: Iowa House District 29

Occupation: Retired Newton police lieutenant; adjunct instructor, Des Moines Area Community College

Education: Master's degree in management, American Military University; Master's Certificate in criminal justice, University of Virginia; B.A. in public administration, Upper Iowa University

Elected offices held: Iowa House District 29, Jan. 2017-present

1. Reintroduce yourselves to Jasper County voters, and explain why you want to serve in the Iowa Senate.

I am Wes Breckenridge, a lifelong Jasper County resident who is active within our communities. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Kris for 30 years, and we have three great children and one handsome grandson. I have a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Upper Iowa University and a master’s in management from American Military University. I’ve been in public service for more than 27 years. I served as a lieutenant with the Newton Police Department, a police officer for the Prairie City Police Department, Monroe Police Department and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office. I’m currently an adjunct instructor with DMACC in Newton, teaching criminal justice courses.

I’m a passionate and caring individual who works for you as your current State Representative. I enjoy listening and gathering input from citizens so we may push for positive change that will improve the lives of all Jasper County and Iowa residents. I have the ability to work with our future business people and leaders. Both of these careers keep me grounded and humble – two traits not very common in the Statehouse currently, but very much needed. I bring a unique and varied experience to this race. ​

2. The privatization of Iowa's Medicaid system has been plagued with administrative issues and created problems for patients and providers seeking reimbursement for services. Do you see a path forward for managed-care, or do you favor a return to the state-run Medicaid system?

We must acknowledge that the privatization of Medicaid has been a failure and many who depend on services are falling through the cracks and not getting the services they deserve. We also see healthcare providers struggling to keep their doors open due to denied and rejected claims, as well as lowered reimbursement rates from the private Managed Care Organizations. In addition, we have not seen clear savings from this change that was promoted. What we have seen is the current administration putting profits before people. This must change. We can be efficient with our state tax dollars while still serving those in need. We either need to fix the current system through proper oversight of the Medicaid Managed Care Organizations or go back to the state-administered model. Citizens of Iowa deserve quality care.

3. Has being on the campaign trail changed or altered your perspective on any one issue? If so, explain.

I have been struck by the number of heart-wrenching stories I’ve heard from families struggling to get services for loved ones suffering with mental illness. The lack of resources and facilities are making it very difficult or impossible to get help. I’ve heard of families forced to leave the state to get care. This is unacceptable. Families should not have to go through this. We can and will do better.

4. What do you see as the biggest issues facing constituents in your district? If elected, how will you address these issues?

There are multiple issues of concern I hear from constituents. One that was discussed in the previous question is the lack of mental health resources. The legislature made a big step by passing a multifaceted mental health bill, HF 2456, that calls for six mental health access centers and substantially increases resources and services. 

However, we must follow through by providing a stable funding source. Many constituents discuss the need for jobs that provide fair wages and benefits so they don’t have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. We need to look for ways to collaborate with the private sector and invest in helping them mitigate costs associated with hiring and training new workers. We need to invest in opportunities to prepare young people for the jobs for tomorrow.

5. U.S. Tariffs on some imported goods have caused American trading partners, specifically China, to retaliate with counter-tariffs — shrinking markets for Iowa crop and livestock producers. The Des Moines Register reported in September, Iowa farmers could lose $2.2 billion in the trade dispute. What is your position on the Trump Administration's farmer bailout, and what would you tell Washington lawmakers about a potential looming crisis?

I understand that some aspects of our trading system are unfair and need to be addressed. The tariffs and trade war with China is not the best approach to deal with the problems. Farmers I’ve talked with would much rather see commodity prices rise through open markets rather than receive bailout money that doesn’t even cover their expenses. Lawmakers need to look for other tools that can be used as leverage to deal with these unfair trade practices. Iowa farmers need open, fair markets, not a handout.

6. The first medical cannabis dispensary owned by MedPharm is slated to open this year in Iowa. Do you favor expanding the new medical cannabis law to approve cannabinoid oil for use with more medical conditions? Does Iowa's current law go far enough to allow patients access?

Yes, I believe that we should expand the new cannabis law to approve cannabinoid oil for more medical conditions. Research and studies should continue to be done to ensure patient safety. Therapeutic benefits of these products seem quite promising. Physicians should be able to prescribe cannabinoid oil for effective treatment based on their expertise and suppliers should not be restrained in dispensing these prescriptions.

7. Iowa's total tax revenue increased by 4 percent since July 2017, compared to 1.6 percent growth in the same time period the year prior. That's due to an automatic increase in Iowa tax withholdings after federal income tax cuts. The legislature will be phasing out federal deductibility for 2019 to return revenue increases to normal levels. With Iowa's coffers strained causing mid-year budget cuts, is this still a good strategy? How will this affect public school SSA, funding for mental health and water quality initiatives in Iowa?

This past session we saw mid-year budget cuts along with $141 million being put on the state’s credit card to cover budget shortages. We need to look at our tax credits and determine which ones provide a return on investment and which do not. We have some tough decisions to make and need to work in a bipartisan way. The tax bill passed this spring will reduce further revenue significantly and is harmful to funding mental health services, education and water quality initiatives, as well as a host of other state services. Iowa deserves better. We must be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars and ensure efficiencies with those dollars. Like everyone else, I’d love a tax cut, too. But we need to be able to pay our bills first.

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