Rep. Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) is in his fifth term serving Iowa House District 43, but in November, he will be seeking a change of scenery. He, his wife Amanda, and his three children will be moving into Urbandale and he will look to win the seat in District 19 with long-time incumbent, Ralph Watts retiring at the end of his current term.
Hagenow has been criticized for moving into Dist. 19, with some saying it’s an easier district for a Republican to win than Dist. 43, but Hagenow said that he and his family have wanted to move farther west for a while now with their kids already attending Des Moines Christian in Urbandale.
“A lot of our friends, the kids’ activities, everything is out that way, so we really started looking,” Hagenow said. “Then when Ralph Watts told me early in the session that he wasn’t running again, I thought ‘well that would make perfect sense,’ so we decided to go ahead and make the move that we’d wanted for quite a while.”
Through talking with people throughout Dist. 19, Hagenow has found that people have been satisfied with what they’ve done in regards to tax reform, making K-12 education funding a priority, and making health insurance more affordable for Iowans.
Hagenow said that the tax reform bill they passed near the end of the legislative session was a “significant package” that was intended to be targeted at the middle class as much as possible. He said that the average Iowan would receive a more-than 10 percent cut on their income tax.
“For example, a family of four making $75,000 a year with two kids is going to get a 25 percent reduction on their income taxes,” Hagenow said. “And it’s important to know that we did that while still balancing the budget.”
He said that he wants to continue to focus on property taxes and has heard a lot from people who are concerned about seeing their property tax rates go up.
Hagenow said that in the midst of a couple of challenging years in regards to the State budget, one thing he said they have not had to make adjustments to is their commitment to K-12 education funding.
He said in the last eight years, about $765 million in new money has been put into K-12 funding and that they have worked to give the local districts flexibility to spend the money where they want and to stretch the dollars as far as they can.
“I think that the record shows that public K-12 education is a priority even in the more difficult budget environments,” Hagenow said. “So we’ll continue down that path because Iowans tell us time and again that that’s an important thing for them.”
With the SAVE tax set to expire in 2020, the Iowa Association of School Boards said that extending that was their No. 1 priority. The Iowa House passed a bill to extend it this year, but it was not taken up by the Senate so Hagenow thinks that is something that will be on the table in the next legislative session.
Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) is a 1-percent sales tax that goes to school districts for renovating and constructing buildings.
When it comes to funding post-secondary education, Hagenow said that House Republicans feel that they get a lot of value for their dollar with the community college system.
“A lot of the job openings that we see around the State of Iowa are for skilled professions that are being trained in our community colleges,” Hagenow said. “And they’ve been really effective, not just at the educational component, but the partnering of local businesses and economic development aspect of it.”
Students at Regents’ universities, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa have faced rising tuition costs in recent years. Hagenow said that despite that, Iowa’s public universities are still a “tremendous value” when compared to similar institutions in other states.
He said that the legislature is working with the Regents’ universities to encourage them to find greater efficiencies to help keep costs as low as possible.
“I think they’ve made real progress over the last several years to do that,” Hagenow said. “But those are significant enterprises in their own right that it’s difficult for the legislature to do a lot to micromanage how they operate the Regents institutions.”
Since former Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid system in 2016, there have been many complaints that have been voiced while the success stories have been far and few in between.
Hagenow admits that there have been challenges with the transition to the MCOs. One of the problems that the system has faced is that bills have not been paid by the MCO companies and that is something they are working to get resolved by working with the Department of Human Services and the new Medicaid Director, Mike Randol.
Hagenow noted that he believes that Managed Care systems have worked in about 40 other states, both Democratic States and Republican States.
“We’re going to continue to keep an eye on this and get it working the way it’s supposed to work,” Hagenow said. “But it will be on ongoing concern. No question.”
Hagenow is currently serving his fifth term in Dist. 43. He was elected Majority Leader in 2015 and Majority Whip in 2012 according to his biography on www.iowahouserepublicans.com. He is an attorney at Hagenow, Gustoff and Dummermuth LLP in Des Moines.