Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act is a bold initiative that will enact the largest tax cut in Iowa history. This plan completely rewrites Iowa’s complex tax code. Over the years Iowa’s tax code has become a collection of tax deductions, exemptions, and credits standing in the way of economic growth, job creation and Iowa family priorities. Senate File 2383 sets competitive tax rates that will drive Iowa’s economic growth initiatives, making Iowa known as one of the most tax friendly states in the nation.
**Senator Dix’s opening remarks as prepared**
For years, Senate Republicans had been calling for change in the Iowa Senate, and for legislation and reforms to improve career opportunities for Iowans and create an environment for stronger economic growth.
The people of Iowa responded, and we were given the chance to lead, a chance to show our citizens we are more than just talking the talk. We’re here to walk the walk. Or, as many of you remember, we’re here to kick the door in.
And we kept our promises.
One year ago, we started our journey. We passed legislation on the Second Amendment and voter ID, a joint resolution to let the citizens of Iowa vote on putting a 99 percent expenditure limit amendment in the state’s constitution, changes to reward our state’s best teachers, and give our school districts more control and flexibility. We passed legislation reducing the regulatory burden on Iowa’s job creators and eliminated hurdles to growth for other industries, improving career opportunities for every Iowan while ensuring our state remains a beacon of enterprise and ingenuity.
Here we are today, ready to write chapter two.
Our state is full of motivated, ambitious and hard-working individuals – everyday Iowans who get up before the sun rises and go to bed long after the sun goes down. They are single parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet and still find the time to help their kids with homework. They are students who work hard to learn a trade so they can find a stable career, start a family, buy a house, and join Iowa’s healthy and growing middle class. They are aspiring small business-owners who are working to turn a hobby into something a little bigger.
Our goal is simple. We want our local businesses – our coffee shops, tire stores, and family diners – to grow and prosper, our communities to grow and thrive, and our children to grow up prepared to tackle the world. We want to relieve the tax burden on the people who make our state what it is, and ensure that every Iowan has the opportunity to thrive here at home.
The objective has always been the same – for more money to be kept by those who earned it.
Tax relief is about emboldening our middle class and encouraging our citizens to invest in themselves, their local businesses, and our state. It is about giving Iowans a little more cushion in their family budget, a little extra to put towards their student loans, or a little more towards that big family vacation. It is about growth and opportunity.
As I’ve stated before, our priorities are no different than they have been in the past. We were sent here to do a job – we were elected to balance the state’s budget, foster an environment of job growth and prosperity, and enact policies that will allow teachers to give our children the education they deserve.
But growth and opportunity don’t just apply to our state’s families. We are also giving our schools and school districts the tools and control to adapt, to innovate, and to spend taxpayer dollars doing what’s right for the students in their community.
While we will again tackle a difficult budget, we will keep our promises to create a better environment for job growth in our state, provide our children with an education that ensures competitiveness both at home and abroad, and ensure everyday, hard-working Iowans get to keep more money in their pocket.
In 2017 our agenda was big and bold. In 2018, Senate Republicans will move an agenda that will again be big and bold because this state deserves big and bold. The changes we make will move our state forward in a positive direction, felt for many generations to come.
The success of our time here should not be measured in how many dollars were spent, or how many dollars saved. Success is determined by how many opportunities that can be created, businesses that can start, and families that stay here in Iowa and continue to call it home for generations to come.
Let’s make it happen!
**Senate President Jack Whitver’s opening remarks as prepared**
Good morning! Majority Leader Dix, Minority Leader Petersen, Senators, staff, family and friends welcome to the Iowa Senate as we begin the 2018 Legislative Session of the 87th General Assembly. Colleagues, thank you again for the honor to serve as president of the Iowa Senate!
The first day of the legislative session is one of my favorites as a legislator. Optimism runs high, and there are smiles and laughter heard throughout the Chamber as we reconnect with friends and colleagues.
More importantly, 50 senators unite in this Chamber with promising new ideas on how we will shape the future of Iowa. I have never been more optimistic about what lies ahead for our state. People around the country are taking notice of Iowa.
In just the last year, Iowa has been recognized for our great job climate – being named the BEST state in the country for the middle class. Our schools have also been recognized as we were named the #1 state in America in high school graduation rates and #4 in increased education funding. Our state has been recognized as the 3rd best managed state in America. There are so many reasons to be excited about the future. I have no doubt that our best days lie ahead of us!
As we embark on the 2018 session, I look forward to building on what many have said was the most historic session this body has ever seen. I am proud this legislature has maintained a great vision for the future, working on issues which will have a profound impact on our state for years to come.
One of my personal highlights last year was bringing my children to spend a day at the Capitol.
They joined us in the pledge of allegiance, watched debate, and enjoyed meeting many of you. I know they had a blast as they often ask when they can come back to visit this session.
However, as much fun as they had and the lessons they took away from the Capitol, it pales in comparison to what I gained from it. When things get hectic at the Capitol, big picture thinking can become blurred.
It is imperative we do not lose sight of why we are here.
My children remind me why I serve; and, I am guessing it is the same reason all of you serve.
We inherited a great state from our parents. It is our job to ensure our kids and our grandkids inherit an even better state from us. We must work diligently on behalf of the next generation so they have opportunities and experiences even greater than our own.
We want all Iowans to live in safe communities. Each one of us strives for Iowa children to receive a world class education and prepare them for work in a global economy. We want our young adults to stay in Iowa – not only for our great career opportunities, but for our outstanding quality of life. And just as important, we want our retirees to stay in Iowa to be close to their families and remain active members in their communities.
While my optimism for our future is great, the challenges of today still exist.
We need to work together to ensure Iowans have access to affordable healthcare, enhance our mental health system, improve our water quality, develop a skilled workforce and continue to revitalize rural Iowa.
In order to accomplish these goals and fund any initiatives, we must always continue to strive for growth in the state of Iowa. This requires more than reducing regulations or adjusting the language in the Iowa Code. It is being open-minded to bold ideas; and having the courage to lead to make that vision a reality.
Two courageous leaders of this nation earned the respect of their fellow Americans during their presidency – John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Both were visionaries, who shared a common belief that growth resulted from reducing taxes.
I share this belief and challenge the body to act bold in passing tax reform in the state of Iowa for the first time in over 20 years!
The question we must ask ourselves is do we want to succeed and remain in the top run states in the nation, or be complacent and let down the three million Iowans who are looking to us to lead?
We have a choice on which path we forge: One that moves us forward and focuses on economic growth and security for our future generations, or the other which takes us a step backward – slowing economic prosperity and progress.
Progress to me is measurable: low unemployment rates, job creation, revenue growth, more disposable income and lower tax rates. I am confident we all want to see this kind of progress for Iowa, and this can be achieved if we have the courage to act boldly.
Allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money is not a new idea. JFK discussed this decades before I was even born. He said, “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now … Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.”
Reagan spent his two terms in the White House also fighting to ease the tax burden on hard-working Americans. “Death and taxes may be inevitable,” Reagan said, “but unjust taxes are not.”
Like Kennedy and Reagan, let us choose a path of growth and prosperity. Let’s continue to look beyond the next election, and look to the next generation as we ensure the 2018 session is even more historic than 2017.
Thank you and welcome back.
It is just over a month away from the start of the 2018 legislative session. During these last couple months, I have been spending a lot of time working on the farm, listening to ideas from friends and neighbors, and getting feedback on the last legislative session.
The 2018 session will be the second session of the 87th General Assembly. In the first, we accomplished a number of the goals we promised you in the election – the very reason you elected us to the majority in the first place. These achievements included huge legislation on the Second Amendment and voter ID, a joint resolution to let the citizens of Iowa vote on putting a 99 percent expenditure limit amendment to the Iowa Constitution, and collective bargaining reform to reward the best teachers our state has to offer. In an effort to improve career opportunities for Iowans, we passed legislation reducing the regulatory burden on Iowa’s job creators and eliminated hurdles to growth for other industries.
We have only just started to see the rewards these changes have made for our state. While we will again tackle a difficult budget, I know we will continue keeping our promises to you to create a better environment for job growth in our state, give our kids the education they deserve, and ensure everyday, hard-working Iowans get to keep more money in their pocket.
Let’s make it happen!
Tomorrow, families all over the country will be getting together for their Thanksgiving festivities, myself included.
This holiday is a great time to reflect on the year – the ups and downs, the good times and the bad. I am thankful for each and every one of these moments. The good moments make us appreciate the hard work we put into our livelihoods each day, while the bad make us grateful for the good times a little more.
I am thankful for my constituents and the people who elected me to office. Without you, we would not have been able to accomplish the number of things we passed this last legislative session. I assure you, it was only the first chapter in our plan to move Iowa forward in a better direction.
None of this is possible without the support of those closest to me. I am thankful for my family and the time we get to spend together. As the kids get older, I start to appreciate the times we are together more and more. Without them, their understanding and encouragement, I wouldn’t be able to go to the Capitol each year to work for each and every constituent.
Please take a few moments this holiday to share with family and friends the many things for which you are thankful. From my family to yours, have a happy Thanksgiving.
It is difficult to find words to adequately honor the sacrifice of the veterans who have served our country. From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror, Americans have sent their best and brightest to risk their lives and make the ultimate sacrifice so we can live in peace and prosperity. Their sacrifice protects the basic principles of our republic: we are endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Those concepts were not new when Thomas Jefferson wrote them into the Declaration of Independence, but our nation was the first to put them fully into practice in a manner of self-governance and the rule of law. Those basic principles allowed for the protection of people and private property and for generations of Americans to reap the reward of investment and work. They moved our economy from one of horses and plows, to combines capable of harvesting an acre of crops in a small fraction of the time. They changed our lives from sweating or shivering to get water, to a home with heating, cooling, and running water. It allows us to pull a small computer out of our pocket and communicate with nearly anyone, anywhere on earth.
The exceptional nature of our country is lost if we are unable to protect ourselves. Threats to our values and way of life exist now and have existed since our nation was just a collection of British colonies. The sacrifices of veterans protect our ability to say what we want, worship who we want, and call ourselves American citizens.
Our country is not perfect. It is not perfect now and it has not been throughout history. But I am confident when I say our nation is the greatest county on earth. Even with those shortcomings, we remain a beacon of freedom to people all around the world who desire those same basic principles. Our soldiers have fought and died in other counties to protect the innocent and free people from tyranny. These truths make America unique in its role as leader and defender of freedom.
It is the men and women in our Armed Services who ensure those principles endure, so it is only fitting they receive recognition for their service. I hope you will join me this weekend in thanking those men and women keeping our country safe.
Next Tuesday Iowans will turn out to the polls to vote in municipal elections. These elections can have a significant impact on our daily lives. City councils control a significant portion of the property taxes Iowans pay. They decide how development will proceed, how parks are built and maintained, and many other aspects close to the lives of residents in our communities.
Last session the Iowa Legislature passed a law allowing fireworks to be purchased and used. That law also gave city councils discretion on a number of policies related to the times and dates those products may be used. The legislature also reformed Iowa’s collective bargaining laws to allow municipal leaders more flexibility and control over their communities.
Finally, the legislature merged the date of city and school board elections for future years. This change will reduce the number of elections for Iowans and it is expected to increase participation in both city and school board elections. That increased involvement allows Iowans a better opportunity to become engaged on local issues.
Policies at the federal level make headlines and draw much conversation and debate, however, the elections in our cities and towns often impact our lives more directly than those in Washington, D.C. I hope you plan to take a few minutes next Tuesday to make your voice heard in municipal elections in your community.
Let’s make it happen!
Last week the Revenue Estimating Conference released its projection for state revenue for this fiscal year and next year. Revenue growth is expected to continue to be slow in the coming months. Senate Republicans passed a smaller budget this year than the budget passed in 2016. This achievement is rarely seen in state government. Exhibiting fiscal restraint is always a priority, but it is only part of the solution to the challenges facing Iowa’s budget.
The other solution to slow revenue growth is stronger economic growth. Sustainable, long term economic growth is achieved by reforming taxes. Iowa’s current tax code is laden with high rates, complexity, and a number of exemptions and credits. The proliferation of tax credits are a symptom of an uncompetitive tax code. Rather than implementing tax credit after tax credit for politically favored industries, the goal of tax reform is to lower rates and complexity for all. Lowering rates and reducing the amount and cost of credits creates a fairer, flatter tax structure allowing the free market to most efficiently drive investment.
As I have noted several times over the last year, Iowa needs stronger economic growth. A strong economy has many advantages: better career opportunities for Iowans, increased tax revenue for education, public safety and infrastructure, and careers and quality of life amenities for younger Iowans to remain in or return to Iowa.
Let’s make it happen!
This week, a group of legislators held a two-day meeting to talk with the medical community on potential responses to the opioid crisis in Iowa and evaluate the prescribing of opioid medications.
The committee received input from state agencies including the Iowa Department of Public Health, representatives of law enforcement, national experts, members of the medical community, and health insurers.
The opioid addiction epidemic is one of America’s foremost health crises. In 2016, Iowa had 67 opioid overdose deaths, 146 opioid-related deaths, and 2,274 opioid treatment admissions. All of these are a significant increase from 2005 when Iowa had 28 opioid overdose deaths, 59 opioid-related deaths, and 608 opioid treatment admissions.
One speaker highlighted states with more aggressive regulation of prescriptions. Currently, 18 states limit the initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain, usually to a seven day limit, while Iowa does not. Thirty-three states invalidate a prescription after 3 days to 1 year.
Another tool Iowa has to combat opioids in the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Iowa introduced this program in 2009. The PMP is a tool utilized by government officials for reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion. The program collects, monitors, and analyzes electronically transmitted prescribing and dispensing data submitted by pharmacies and dispensing practitioners. The tool helps minimize what has become known as doctor shopping. Doctor shopping occurs when a patient visits many different doctors to request prescription narcotics, which often leads to overuse and abuse of the medication. In Iowa, prescribers are not required to register to use or use the PMP. Approximately 42 percent of prescribers are currently registered to use the PMP.
Legislators discussed a bill to address the opioid crisis for the 2018 Legislative session. More work remains for legislators on this issue prior to the 2018 session. Legislators have highlighted this issue as one that cannot be ignored. The committee will submit a report by Nov. 15 on their findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly.
During last session Senate Republicans pushed for increased local control for schools across Iowa. Even though those reforms are only a few months old, the results are starting to be seen on the local level. The Cedar Rapids Gazette recently profiled the home school program at the Marion Independent School District.
According to the article, the Marion home school program is the largest in the state by a significant margin and it draws home school students from around the Cedar Rapids metro area. The article goes on to discuss one of the education reform policies passed last session and how it may impact the Marion home school program. House File 565 allowed Iowa schools to create flexibility accounts, which permit the allocation of unused funds from one program to another.
These reforms allowed the school board for the Marion School District to consider re-allocating funds from their home school program into a flexibility account. Once the funds are in the flexibility account they may then be used for facility improvements and upgrades. The nearly 1,000 students enrolled in those activities could move from a cramped 7,500 square feet facility to one with over 22,000 square feet to accommodate the programs.
It is encouraging to see schools creatively utilizing the tools the legislature provided to improve the opportunities for students. I look forward to learning of more examples of the benefits of local control in schools, counties and cities across Iowa.
Let’s make it happen!