JOHNSTON, Iowa — Two former colleagues at the Iowa Statehouse — who now find themselves running against each other for a seat in Congress — disagreed on what the federal minimum wage should be Monday night. Abby Finkenauer, a Dubuque Democrat seeking her second term in Iowa’s First Congressional District, and Ashley Hinson, a Marion Republican and state representative, debated for an hour on a variety of topics on Iowa PBS, the public television network in the state.
The candidates disagreed when it came to raising the federal minimum wage, which has remained at $7.25 per hour for the past 11 years. Both candidates said that the wage could increase but they disagreed over what that figure should be.
Finkenauer, a former state legislator before getting elected to Congress in 2018, criticized Hinson for the Republican-led effort at the Statehouse which blocked a local municipality’s ability to increase its own minimum wage above the state’s $7.25 per hour figure. “Representative Hinson, you actually took away a wage increase for your own constituents,” Finkenauer said, “Linn County voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and then in the Statehouse you voted to undermine that … to say that they couldn’t do it.”
Hinson responded by criticizing Finkenauer’s support for the Democrats’ proposal in Washington, D.C. that more than doubled the federal minimum wage. “A $15 an hour minimum wage is not the answer either and that’s what you supported in Congress,” Hinson said, “That would put dozens of small businesses out of business. I’ve talked to many who say they employ people with disabilities because they can. They can’t pay them $15 an hour. What you’ll get is on this Labor Day, you’ll have people out of work. You’ll have people replaced by kiosks and machines.”
The two also disagreed on student loan forgiveness. Iowans graduating with student debt carry a burden of an average of nearly $30,000. Hinson said that some people chose to have a career without a college degree and they shouldn’t be forced as taxpayers to cover the cost of student loans for those who choose to go to college. Finkenauer said that she supports an effort that could reduce student loan debts for people who move to areas of the country with declining populations if they agree to reside there for at least eight years.