CLINTON — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Blouin spoke at the DeWitt Development Co. annual meeting and Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee meeting Friday.

The top four priorities in Iowa, said Blouin, are jobs, education, health care and quality of life issues — all of which are directly related to one another.

“We need jobs that will keep us gainfully employed,” he said, with the emphasis on gainfully. Educational offerings that will meet the needs of the workforce of the future are key. Economic development can provide the revenue to fund the education system, which in turn is supported by educated people who join the work force, he said.

As a former elementary school teacher, Blouin said on the first day of each school year he knew which students were so far behind they couldn’t be caught up. Steps should be taken to keep students from falling behind, he said.

Iowa has been going on reputation for some time now, said Blouin, and a lot of people know it. Being ranked No. 1 in the U.S. isn’t good enough anymore, he said, Iowa should be working toward a world-class system.

Young people across the board indicate an educational system, quality jobs and communities that offer fun activities are what they require to stay in Iowa.

A long-term, generational transformation is needed, said Blouin, and partisan differences must be set aside to accomplish it. Historically Iowans have disagreed on details, said Blouin, but not the “whether we’ll do its.” If current issues are to be resolved, this thinking needs to be revived.

In his long years of public service, said Blouin, he has never seen an issue that “so unites people in fear and divides them in solution” as health care.

“Nobody wants to give an inch,” he said. “We need to start giving inches to fix this problem… before it blows up nationally.”

Health care soon will become a crisis in this country, Blouin said, and the U.S. Congress, in which he served two terms beginning in 1974, does not operate that well even in good times, and is really bad at responding in a crisis.

There are small, preventive steps — getting nurses in the 90 school districts with none, providing prenatal care for thousands of mothers who have no access and stopping the push of seniors into residential settings — that could be taken at relatively small expense, and would save much more in the long run.

Clinton Chamber President Dennis Lauver questioned Blouin on the brewing eminent domain debate in the Iowa Legislature.

Eminent domain is a tool that has worked invaluably in Iowa for many years, said Blouin. In an effort to fix a perceived problem, the state must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water, he suggested.

A recent Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain had absolutely no impact on Iowa law, which is a common misconception, said Blouin. In the overwhelming majority of instances, the use of eminent domain does not cross any lines critics fear.

The advantage of eminent domain is equity, said Blouin, giving the example of 10 buildings on a block of equal value. If eight of the owners sell for one price, and the last two hold out more, a governmental body can be held hostage by an unfair asking price.

Taking someone’s land and giving to another private entity is problematic, said Blouin, but is done very rarely in Iowa. The abuses that have happened elsewhere are not common in Iowa, and he would be reluctant to change a system that isn’t broken.

Blouin also touched on renewable energy and road use tax.

Blouin was elected to the Iowa Legislature in his early 20s. He served two terms in the U.S. Congress in the 1970s, then returned to Iowa.

Blouin was a “rare bird of a Democrat,” he said, working as chamber director in both Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, and then was asked to serve as the director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

During his three years in that capacity, the Iowa Values Fund, which Blouin calls the most successful economic development effort in the state’s history, was enacted.