U.S. House representative Cindy Axne (IA-3) spoke at a town hall at The Corner Wednesday, June 9 in Greenfield. Axne updated constituents on COVID-19, rural broadband, child tax credits in the American Rescue Plan Act and took questions during her visit.
“Some of you have heard me say this before, but I truly mean this. When you come from a state like Iowa, you have to be the voice of 10 representatives because we’re competing against 40 representatives out of California and 30 out of New York, etc., who are working together for their issues. So for Iowa, with four representatives, we have to work hard together to bring things back to the state,” Axne said to open her visit.
Axne, a member of the rural broadband task force, supports rural broadband in the infrastructure bill, which she is working to have funds awarded to local telecoms.
“We crafted a piece of policy to extend broadband to everybody in this country,” she said. “Speeds have to be a minimum of 100 megabytes per second upload-download. Just so you know what that means, that means a couple of grandkids can be streaming a movie, somebody working on the computer and somebody searching something online.”
Axne stressed the importance of making broadband affordable.
“You have to provide at least one low-cost option because we can bring connectivity to people, but if they can’t afford it, what’s the point,” she said.
Axne also updated constituents on the status of COVID-19 in the state and credits the Biden administration for progress in that area.
“You may remember that at the beginning of this year Iowa was seeing 1,000 cases a day and we were seeing only 5% of people having a vaccination in January,” Axne said. “We’re now up to 50% being vaccinated and of course down to a few cases a day.”
Axne said that she is working in the House to ensure the government’s healthcare apparatus is amply supported.
“We’ve restored funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and ensured that the Department of Health and Human Services have the resources they need to support this healthcare epidemic that we’re having in this country that’s still continuing but we managed to manage it and we’re continuing to do so,” Axne said.
Axne also said that the House is ensuring that the country is better prepared for the next pandemic.
“I’m part of a pandemic preparedness task force,” she said. “We’re working on making sure that in the future, that we are prepared for these things and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that’s ensuring that whatever we do, whether it’s the government, or looking within the structures of this country around supplies, making sure that we can quickly put in defense authorizations so we can manufacture goods here like the PPE that we couldn’t get last year.”
Only 5% of the PPE that the U.S. needed was made in America, Axne said.
“We’re going to make sure that if something like this happens again, we’re much more prepared,” she said.
Axne touted that she was the only member of the Iowa delegation that voted for the American Rescue Plan Act which included a $1,400 stimulus check, child tax credits and an earned income tax credit. Axne said she’s working to expand these tax credits and is pursuing legislation to distribute them on a regular basis.
“I know many of you have kids, grandkids and you’ve been through this, you know how expensive it is to raise children and in today’s market where we can’t get the minimum wage raised just above $7, our families need a break,” she said. “So we put in a lot of tax credits in that rescue plan that I’m working to expand exponentially so that we always have those.”
Less people traveled so less revenue was brought in from parking meters, traffic tickets and gas expenses. Axne estimated that small towns lost as much as $1 million.
Axne answered questions from constituents. One constituent, referencing a ProPublica study, asked about the steepness of tax cuts for the wealthy which allows them not to pay any tax.
“We have a crumbling infrastructure in this country because the wealthiest people haven’t paid their fair share. We have 5,000 derelict bridges just in this state alone, we have pipes that are ready for failure. We saw it in Flint with people dying because of bad pipes,” Axne said.
Axne also referenced billionaires Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s space endeavors.
“We’ve got some people who have so much money that they can go and build rockets and we have other people who are strapped because they can’t even find a child care center to even get a job to even put $10 an hour in their pocket,” Axne said.
Axne stressed that the tax increases she has been working on in congress only applies to people earning more than $400,000 a year.
Answering a question about food insecurity, Axne said she introduced a food waste bill that aims to create a nationwide network involving research organizations and businesses to combat the crisis.
“We waste so much, and not only that, I think about the input into that,” she said. “Our farmers are doing a lot of input to grow food that goes to waste and I know our farmers don’t want to see that, so we have to do everything we possibly can to address this.”
An older constituent asked about border security, referencing the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, in which an undocumented immigrant is on trial for allegedly taking her life. Axne agreed that the immigration system is broken and said that there should be more security at the border but that the U.S. should cease it’s family separation policy.
“We have an opportunity to protect our border, but also do so in a humane way,” Axne said. “And that means utilizing drones and all this surveillance that we have that’s virtual.”