State Sen. Jack Hatch
State Sen. Jack Hatch
September 20, 2013

State Sen. Jack Hatch, a veteran Des Moines legislator, used a Carroll speech Thursday to help launch his candidacy for governor. The Democrat, on a statewide campaign tour, spotlighted his intent to boost the minimum wage in Iowa and cut or eliminate property taxes for senior citizens on fixed incomes - a policy package he called the foundation for a Democratic, progressive agenda.

"I think I have that sense of what Democrats stand for, that makes them feel comfortable," Hatch said.

Hatch is also touting an evolving plan to reduce the time it takes to earn a bachelor's degree at state universities and private colleges in Iowa from four or more years to as little as 21/2 years.

"We're not afraid to tackle these big issues," Hatch said.

He added, "I stand up for the little guy over the big guy all the time."

Hatch, 63, who has served 22 years in the Iowa House and Senate, said four-term Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who has re-election machinery rolling, is vulnerable in 2014, even though he has a track record of beating opponents Hatch described as some of the state's best Democrats beginning in the 1980s.

"You need to know that we can beat him," Hatch said.

Hatch spoke to about 10 Democratic Party activists at Sam's Sodas & Sandwiches. Two county supervisors, Mark Beardmore, a Republican, and Marty Danzer, a Democrat, attended the event as well.

In an interview with The Daily Times Herald, Hatch said he would commission a study to determine how much to increase the minimum wage in Iowa. The federal wage floor stands at $7.25 an hour.

"We'll look at $10 (an hour)," Hatch said. "We'll stage it."

Even though Hatch said he doesn't believe a minimum-wage hike will affect small businesses, he said a three- to five-year implementation makes sense.

"If we laid it all on them at once, I think it would" hurt business, Hatch said.

Hatch said he wants to see a stronger network developed between Iowa universities and colleges and community colleges - complemented by the use of online tools - to allow students to obtain the credits they need to move through the post-secondary experience more quickly than the traditional four years, should they choose that path.

"It means the colleges are going to have to suck it up and look at a new paradigm," Hatch said.

Students should be able to get a bachelor's degree in less than three years after graduating high school, if they have worked hard, Hatch said.

"We should be able to make that happen for them," Hatch said.

Hatch said that instead of commercial-property-tax reform, the state should target property-tax reduction and elimination for senior citizens based on income. This, Hatch said, is not a play for the senior vote, but rather an approach that will keep more of Iowa's elderly in their homes, where health care is more affordable. Hatch said he did not have a figure available on how much it would cost the state to backfill taxes seniors wouldn't have to pay under his plan.

Carroll County Supervisors Chairman Mark Beardmore followed up on questions he posed to Branstad at a Carroll town hall just weeks ago with similar ones to Hatch on mental-health services. Hatch shepherded legislation that moved Iowa to a statewide system, forcing counties to join regions.

Beardmore said Carroll County had strong marks as a stand-alone provider and had developed an enviable financial position. The county now will be forced into a region with some counties that have operated mental-health services in the red, Beardmore said.

When pressed by Beardmore, Hatch said any problems associated with Carroll's implementation rest with the governor's office for not making more funding available.

Like Branstad, Hatch said state officials had to make a decision on what would work for all 99 counties - that not all counties were as competent as Carroll in providing services.

Beardmore, who advocated an exemption for the county from the developing statewide mental-health system, pressed Branstad to explain the logic behind the Iowa Department of Human Service's rejection of a waiver for Carroll County.

He didn't like the governor's answers. But Beardmore took even greater issue with Hatch on the matter, saying the Des Moines legislator sought to pass blame for the matter on the governor - rather than take responsibility for his role in a law that Beardmore believes disadvantages Carroll.

Under the language of the redesign law, Carroll could not have qualified for the money Hatch said Branstad withheld, Beardmore said.

"I find his actions deplorable and downright shameful to be placing blame elsewhere," Beardmore told The Daily Times Herald.

Hatch is one of three Democrats in the governor's race. State Rep. Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids and former legislator Bob Krause of Des Moines are running in the primary.