Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, released closing remarks at the end of the 2022 Iowa Legislative Session as prepared for delivery:
Friends and colleagues,
I want to start by simply thanking everyone for their hard work this year. Senators, staff, and pages. Thank you for your service to Iowa.
Traditionally, the end of session speech recaps the session just completed. However, this year I want to take a look at the last two years of accomplishments. The 89th General Assembly will go down as one of the most productive and exceptional General Assemblies in Iowa history. It will also go down as one of the most successful.
We took our seats in this chamber in January of 2021, 9 months into the first worldwide pandemic in 100 years. It was a time of hardship for many people. It was a time of great uncertainty. It was a time of great stress for so many Iowans.
It was also a difficult time to legislate. The issues facing us were issues none of us ever expected to address in our years in the Senate. Issues we don’t consider when we decided to run for office. Issues like pandemics, vaccine policies, mask requirements, or lockdowns.
It was a time that needed strong leadership. It needed smart leadership. And it needed good leadership.
That leadership was provided by Governor Reynolds through the summer and fall of 2020 when we were not in session.
But when the legislature returned in January of 2021, it was time to get to work WITH the governor to legislate solutions to the issues in front of us. While most governors around the country continued to govern through executive orders, this caucus and this legislature sat down and worked WITH our governor to pass the necessary LEGISLATION to move this state forward. We worked together to lead this state through the challenges brought by the pandemic in a way consistent with the founding principles of this republic.
In January of 2021, the hottest issue in the state was: Should our kids go to school? As liberal school boards literally locked our kids out of school or forced our students into part time school, the Republicans in the legislature stood up and passed one of the first laws in the country saying that no matter where you live, no matter which school you attend… if you want your kids in school, they have the option to go to school 100% of the time in Iowa.
History may look back at this decision as an obvious decision… the easy solution.
It wasn’t that easy. Education unions decried the common-sense solution of giving parents and students the option of being in school in person full time. Only a handful of states had the courage and ability to step up and pass legislation to ensure our kids were in school. We were one of them. 32 Republicans in this chamber stood up for our kids to make sure our kids were being educated. Every Democrat voted NO!
As liberal cities and states across the country rushed to DEFUND THE POLICE, Iowa did the opposite. Common sense will tell you that if you defund the police, you will see an increase in crime. This legislature passed one of the most comprehensive Back the Blue bills in the entire country. In Iowa, our law enforcement officers know – when they have our back, we have their back! 32 Republican senators voted to support our law enforcement. Every single Democrat voted NO!
The covid pandemic was also a very difficult for state budgets across the country. A shutdown of the economy for several months naturally had a tremendous impact on our state revenues.
Because of the hard work done by Republicans in the Iowa Legislature on our state budget over the past few years, our finances were strong in March of 2020. The Council of State Governments analyzed every state fiscal situation in March of 2020, and Iowa ranked as the state best prepared to weather the pandemic financially.
If that wasn’t enough, because of the decisions made by the governor and this legislature, Iowa opened back up and we were named by Wallet Hub as the one of the fastest states to recover from the pandemic.
Our strong fiscal conservatism has led to record surpluses, record balances in our rainy day funds, and a record amount in our taxpayer relief fund. This year we promised to do what every government should do when it has too much taxpayer money.
Our Ways and Means committee got to work! In 2021, we passed one of the biggest tax reform bills in history. We expedited income tax cuts, we eliminated the death tax in Iowa, and we made good on our promise to fund mental health, while reducing property taxes.
This tax bill would be historic in any normal General Assembly. But continued growth and surpluses positioned us to enact another tax cut. This time the biggest income tax cut in state history! We began our Republican trifecta with a tax rate of 8.9%. This legislature has reduced that rate to 3.9%!
Over the last two years, we have seen relentless government overreach in a way few of us ever could imagine. At every turn, we have had Iowans’ backs.
When cities and states across the country were implementing vaccine passports, this legislature stood up to support Iowans. We passed a ban on vaccine passports so Iowans would not be shut out of local businesses due to their personal medical decisions.
When schools continued with unnecessary mask mandates that took power out of parents’ hands and defied common sense, we were there for our students. Iowa was one of only a few states to pass a mask mandate ban in our schools.
When the Biden Administration imposed vaccine mandates on millions of employees, we again stood up for Iowa employees and passed a bill last fall to ensure that Iowans would be protected against these unconstitutional mandates.
If there is one thing that I would tell Iowans about the 89th General Assembly…it is this: Republicans in the legislature have had your back. We made sure you kept more of what you earned. We made sure Iowans had the choice to wear a mask and whether to attend school full time. We protected Iowans against the non-stop government overreach by some cities, schools, and the federal government. We have had your back and we made sure common sense prevails in Iowa.
This two-year General Assembly has been productive and historic. As we end this session and head out to talk with our constituents, we know our work is not done. Despite all we have accomplished, we have much more to do. This generational tax cut will be implemented over the next several years and a conservative, sustainable budget must accompany that tax relief.
In addition to implementing tax relief and sustainable budgets, more work remains to give Iowa parents a greater ability to direct their children’s education. Iowa has some excellent public schools but they don’t always work for every student. Putting parents first has been a theme for Senate Republicans for the last 6 years. From in-person learning, to choosing to wear a mask, and ensuring open enrollment exists for all Iowa students, we have led on empowering parents. We continued that work this year and we will continue to advance that goal next year.
The path forward is clear. I look forward to the next several months of communicating our positive, pro-growth message to Iowans. Followed by the 90th General Assembly when we will continue to deliver results for this great state.
Thank you Mr. President.