WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Meet Jeff Kurtz - State Representative Candidate - June 5 Iowa Primary

May 15, 2018

Jeff Kurtz (D-Fort Madison) is running for the District 83 seat in the Iowa House of Representatives. He said he brings to the race a willingness to serve plus experience working on legislative issues.

Kurtz is one of the candidates running to replace Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk), who announced this will be his final year representing District 83, which includes Keokuk, Fort Madison and south Lee County. The other candidates in the race are Bob Morawitz (D-Fort Madison), Michael Hardy (D-Keokuk), and Jeff Reichman (R-Montrose).

**NOTE - Tri States Public Radio spoke with Kurtz prior to the adjournment of the legislative session and prior to the passage of the fetal heartbeat bill.**  

Kurtz said a number of people talked to him about running following Kearns’ announcement that he was retiring after 10 years in office. Kurtz said it did not take long to make up his mind.

“I thought I had a lot to contribute,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz was born in Fort Madison and has lived there for most of his life. He worked for Burlington Northern Santa Fe for more than 40 years before his retirement in 2014.

During his BNSF career he was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, serving as president of the local for nearly a decade and as the State Legislative Board Chairman for ten years. Kurtz touted his legislative experience with the BLET , saying it prepared him to serve in Des Moines.

Kurtz said one of his top priorities if elected would be to reverse the 2017 changes to Iowa’s public employee bargaining law, which allowed local governments to only negotiate wages each year.

“I would like to see us go back to the pre-2017 language,” said Kurtz. “People don’t realize how much public employees contribute to the local economy.” He added that lawmakers rushed to approve the change so he does not believe reversing the law will take a long time to complete.

Kurtz also said he’s worried about whether the personal income tax cuts approved this session will benefit Iowa because he said people could spend the money they save outside the state.

“We have to target these tax cuts so the vast majority of the money remains in Iowa,” said Kurtz. “Otherwise, it does no good.”

On the issues: 

  • Kurtz said he supports providing tax credits and incentives to prospective businesses as long as they can show the need and that the incentives make sense. For instance, he questions whether large corporations with billions of dollars need any financial support from the state.
  • He said Iowa should invest more into K-12 education and mental health care, and the state should reverse cuts to higher education. He said he would identify places to cut to come up with the funding as he gets more familiar with the state budget.
  • Kurtz would oppose any plan to alter Iowa’s public employee retirement system (IPERS).
  • He would seek to have the state resume control of Medicaid as opposed to sticking with the current privatized system.

Kurtz said another priority for him would be to promote trade programs in junior high and high school and technical schools. He said not every student in Iowa is looking to attend a four-year college after graduation.

“We try to pound the square peg into the round hole and we don’t need to do that,” said Kurtz.