Finkenauer and Hinson clash over taxes, energy and infrastructure

By: - October 28, 2020 3:02 pm

EPA has asked an appeals court to throw out three biofuels waivers granted by the Trump administration. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

When it comes to the economy, both candidates in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District like to say they support “working families” — but the similarities end there.

Democrat Abby Finkenauer, who is seeking a second term in the November election, is facing Republican Ashley Hinson, a state representative from Marion.

Hinson says her goal, which she describes as “simple,” is to help American taxpayers keep more of their own money, although she doesn’t specify what programs she’d like to see cut to achieve that goal.

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, left, and Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson. (Photos courtesy Iowa Public Television.)

She notes that while serving in the Iowa House of Representatives, she repeatedly voted for tax cuts that increased the take-home wages of Iowa workers while maintaining a balanced budget.

Finkenauer says “the only tax policies I support are ones that actually benefit working families — and not disproportionately (favoring) those at the top and corporations, which is what we’ve seen, unfortunately, both in the state of Iowa and then also through the federal government a few years back. That is something that actually added $2 trillion to our debt and has put things like Social Security at risk.”

She says some corporate tax breaks, such as those given to the oil industry “which this administration has handed out like candy on Halloween,” need to be eliminated. Those tax breaks, she says, “have hurt our farmers and our economy.”

Here’s a look at where the two candidates stand on some of specific issues related to the economy.

Energy and agriculture

Hinson describes agriculture as “the heart of Iowa’s economy and rural communities” and says the industry is threatened by “socialist initiatives like the Green New Deal.”

She says Finkenauer has remained silent on proposals that, in Hinson’s words, would “effectively eliminate the ethanol market” by mandating that all cars be zero-emission by 2035.

“Congresswoman Finkenauer owes Iowans an explanation for refusing to stand up against a radical policy that would bankrupt Iowa farmers and decimate the renewable fuels industry,” Hinson says.

When asked by KCCI to outline specifically what she’d do to help Iowa farmers, Hinson responded, “In Congress, I will always go to bat for our farmers, and be the accessible leader they need to advocate on their behalf. We need consistent policies that support farmers that they can count on so that they can maximize their farms.”

As a state lawmaker, Hinson voted in favor of bills that allowed for trespassing charges against undercover investigators at agricultural facilities and increased the penalties for those who trespass.

In April, Finkenauer introduced the Clean Fuels Deployment Act of 2020, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans from Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas. Finkenauer says the bill would provide funding for installing and converting fuel pump infrastructure to deliver higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.

It authorizes $600 million over six years to help retailers offer higher ethanol blends and expand the geographic area selling ethanol blends.

“The time is now to further diversify our fuel supply and move more biofuels into the market,” Finkenauer says. “Biofuels offer a proven path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonizing the transportation sector, driving economic growth and creating jobs.”


Finkenauer says Congress needs to be prepared to approve an infrastructure package that will help stimulate the economy once the pandemic begins to recede.

Already, she says, she has worked to make sure that whatever money is allocated for infrastructure will reach rural communities. Part of that effort, she says, involves eliminating red tape and fees that would make it harder for smaller communities to claim federal assistance.

Finkenauer points out that Iowa has more structurally deficient bridges — a total of 4,675 — than any other state in the nation.

Hinson says Democrats are too focused on the Green New Deal, noting that the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has said Democrats’ INVEST in America Act represents “the application of the principles of the Green New Deal.” Hinson calls that “a $93 trillion scheme” that will es to wreak havoc on the economy.

“Our country needs to rebuild and recover, not revisit a socialist pipedream,” Hinson says. She adds that any infrastructure bill must address the sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund, so that’s not so dependent on fuel taxes for funding.

Hinson says she wants to direct taxpayer dollars toward upgrades of the nation’s roads and bridges as well as broadband service in rural America.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.