Closing Comments from Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver

Mr. President, 

It is a tradition at the beginning of each legislative session for the Senate Majority Leader to lay out the vision for the upcoming session. In January I talked about the need to give parents an option to send their students to school for in-person learning and for us to continue our focus on creating a tax and regulatory environment to encourage work and investment. Policies designed to make this state a premier location in this country to work and raise a family.

Parents across the state were seeing their children struggle to stay engaged with remote learning. It quickly became apparent the quality of education through a screen just is not the same as education in person. The emails from frustrated parents began to trickle into our email boxes. The trickle became a stream and the stream a river. Parents knew their children needed to have a regular schedule of education and they needed the legislature to help.

The Education Committee quickly developed policy to implement a shared priority with the House of Representatives and the governor to give parents the option to send their children to school full time. Data from Iowa and across the country showed the deterioration of the academic performance of K-12 students. The decline was even worse amongst lower income children. After 9 months or more of intermittent or no in-person schooling, it was time for Iowa students to stop the erosion of their knowledge and skills and begin to recover and advance their education.

Education provides Iowa students the tools they need to compete for the careers of tomorrow in an ever-changing economy. The changes in the economy over the last 15 months highlighted the need for improved broadband service across the state as more and more Iowans worked from home, took classes from home, and even had doctor’s appointments from home. Iowa is ranked as one of the bottom states in the country in connectivity and broadband speeds and that problem needed a solution. Leaders of the Commerce Committee addressed the vital need for improved broadband services across the state with strong policy improvements. That policy was followed up by a $100 million commitment to improve this service.

The $100 million for broadband was made possible in part because of the tough but necessary choices on the state budget over the last four years. For the first two years in the majority Republicans were forced to implement mid-year budget cuts because spending was too high. After those years, the budget is now on solid footing and can sustain not only a global pandemic, but also can create opportunities to build the broadband infrastructure to further economic development in rural Iowa. 

That stable, reliable budget creates opportunities for tax relief and this year the tax relief will be significant. A robust housing market caused property assessments to rise by tens of thousands of dollars in some areas. The Senate responded with a $100 million property tax cut by eliminating the mental health levy and moving funding to the state budget. Uncertainty around the effective date of a major round of income tax cuts was eliminated. This relief will reduce the top rate in Iowa from an uncompetitive 8.53% to a more competitive 6.5%, along with implementing more simplicity into the tax code. This year’s tax cut package totals over $1 billion over the next 8 years. It also allows bonus depreciation so farmers and small business can continue to invest in their operations and create more opportunities in this state.

Finally, none of these opportunities will become a reality without the protection of the life and property of Iowans. This year the Senate led on implementing a number of protections for the people who keep us safe. Law enforcement will have protections enshrined in Iowa law for faithfully doing their jobs. They will have legal protections from dangerous and violent offenses against them like maliciously shining laser pointers in their eyes.

This session ran a little longer than normal. But as I’ve said many times, Senate Republicans come to Des Moines to do something, not be someone. We are happy to do the hard work necessary to provide certainty on income tax relief, property tax relief, make sure K-12 students can go to school full time, pass a reliable, sustainable budget, and defend law enforcement.

Iowa is the 2nd fastest state in the country to recover from the pandemic. Iowa has 65,000 job openings and 32,000 people looking for work. Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, great schools, a lowering tax burden, and an outstanding quality of life. 

Iowa is a great place to live and it’s only getting better.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Closing Comments from Senate President Jake Chapman

Mr. Majority Leader, Colleagues, and Fellow Iowans:

Let me begin by congratulating all of you on an incredible legislative session. It is a privilege and an honor to preside over the Senate. I have had the unique opportunity to observe all of you as we debate, discuss, and vote on legislation. In your eyes and facial expressions, I have seen joy, excitement, sorrow, disappointment, and perhaps even anger at times. These emotions are real, and are an outward expression of the love all of you have for our great state and her people.

In my opening day remarks I highlighted – that like the rest of America, Iowa has faced unprecedented times with a global pandemic. “Back to normal” has been the battle cry for many Iowans who want nothing more than to have their rights and liberties restored. I believed then, just as I believe now, that we have and will continue to strive for something much greater than returning to the days of the past. Iowa will have a better tomorrow because of the legislation enacted by this General Assembly.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight just a few of these accomplishments. Iowans can have confidence that with the passage of our election integrity legislation, our elections are safe and secure. We passed legislation that will allow law abiding citizens to exercise their 2nd amendment rights without asking the government for a permission slip. Districts, including Des Moines Public Schools, will no longer have the ability to force students to stay in their failing education system, and with the elimination of these diversity plans, will allow students to pursue a better education elsewhere. Legislation was passed to protect and defend our brave men and women who selflessly serve our communities as law enforcement officers; we are indeed grateful for their sacrifices.  We preserved Iowans’ freedom and ensured they would not be forced to show a covid-19 vaccine card to live out their lives.

Colleagues, we are also leaving this legislative session with a sound fiscal budget. We have learned from years past that overspending does not lead to prosperity but rather enslaves us by chains of indebtedness. Not only did we maintain a fiscally conservative budget, we passed a tax reduction bill of which we should all be proud. This legislation will provide over $1 billion dollars of tax relief over the next eight years. This legislation will provide property tax relief while also ensuring our highest income tax bracket is reduced to 6.5%. Lastly, Iowans will no longer be subjected to the horrible and irresponsible plunder tax known as the inheritance tax. 

I recently read a quote by Solon found near the stairwell on the 2nd floor of this beautiful capitol. The quote reads as follows,”The ideal state – that in which an injury done to the least of its citizens is an injury done to all.” Perhaps the greatest accomplishments are when we are able to protect those who are particularly vulnerable and who have been victimized by others. I was honored to run the legislation to lift the statutes of limitation for criminal prosecution for those who violate children. This law lifted the arbitrary deadline for victims to come forward in telling their story and seeking justice. One brave individual, Kimberly Gleason, courageously spent day after day sharing her story, educating, and advocating for this legislation. “Kimberly’s Law” will undoubtedly help countless individuals into the future and is a great example that the power of one is limitless. Colleagues, more can and will need to be done to protect our children!

It was also necessary for this body to correct a feckless and negligent judicial decision that aimed to re-write our constitution. When our courts usurp “the people” by using the power of the gavel to rewrite our constitution, this legislature will take action. The Senate and House came together to propose a constitutional amendment that will reassert that it is “the people” of Iowa, not unelected judges who will ultimately decide what changes our constitution will undergo.   

Colleagues, we leave this legislative session with much optimism, optimism that we made a difference and optimism for a promising future. Though more work is needed, we can be assured that Iowans will wake to a much brighter tomorrow because of the work and sacrifice of this general assembly. May God continue to richly bless our great state and her people.

Senate Passes Income, Property, and Small Business Tax Cuts

The Iowa Senate passed SF 619, a broad agreement to reduce the tax burden in Iowa. This bill passed with bi-partisan support, 29-15. It now goes to the House of Representatives for their consideration. The bill is expected to save taxpayers over $1 billion over the next 8 years. 

“Today, the Iowa Senate made Iowa more competitive. Reducing the top income tax rate to 6.5% means Iowa families will keep more of the money they earn. Lower income tax rates make this state more attractive to small business and people looking for a new home,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R – Ankeny. “Phasing out the inheritance tax ends the unjust practice of taxing the dead. Eliminating the mental health levy finally provides actual property tax relief for Iowans. Iowans asked for tax relief and the Iowa Senate has answered those calls.” 

“Senate Republicans promised bold tax reform when the session started in January and this bill delivered,” said Senator Dan Dawson, R – Council Bluffs, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “This bill includes eliminating the tax triggers, eliminating the inheritance tax, provides tax relief for small business, and provides tax cuts for Iowa families. Senate File 619 is the tax bill Iowans deserve and I am proud to have it pass the Iowa Senate.”

Senate Passes $100 Million Property Tax Cut

Today, the Iowa Senate passed Senate File 587 reforming the state’s mental health system and reducing property taxes.  The bill passed 30-17.

“Tax relief continues to be a goal of the Senate Republicans,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “I have said, as long as I am Majority Leader, tax relief will be part of the Senate agenda. Senate File 587 delivers on that promise. Not only does it provide real property tax relief, it also delivers increased funding to mental health services in Iowa.”

Over a period of years, the bill moves mental health funding from local property taxes to state funding. It also eliminates property tax levies, and phases out the backfill to local governments.

“Republicans are elected to enact bold reforms, and this is one of those reforms,” said Senator Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs. “It cuts property taxes for Iowans by over $100 million, dedicates sustainable and consistent funding for mental health, and removes the triggers put into place by the 2018 tax bill to ensure real tax relief for Iowans.”

Senate Republicans Release Budget Targets

Today, Senate Republicans released their Fiscal Year 2022 budget targets. The total spending for FY 2022 is $7.999 billion, an increase of $195 million from Fiscal Year 2021, and represents spending 94% of available revenue. The targets budget for the elimination of the triggers in the 2018 tax bill, effective January 1, 2023, the phasing out of the inheritance tax, and significant property tax relief.

“For four years Republicans have been managing the state budget in the same way Iowans manage the family budget,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Ft. Dodge, “This budget provides reliable, sustainable increases in K-12 education, funds significant increases to public safety, including a $4 million increase for correctional officers, and a $60 million increase in mental health funding.”

“As I say frequently, as long as I am leader and Republicans are in the majority in the Senate, we will work toward tax relief for working families,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “This budget keeps the promise our members made to Iowans to reduce taxes on Iowa families, small businesses, and farmers by accounting for the removal of the triggers, phasing out the inheritance tax, and over $100 million in property tax relief. Iowans can remain confident the promises made by Senate Republicans are kept.”  

Overview of tax relief provisions included in Senate Republican budget targets:

  • Elimination of the revenue triggers in the 2018 tax cut. 
  • Elimination of the mental health levy on property taxes.
  • Elimination of the inheritance tax.

Overview of FY 2022 increases in Senate Republican budget targets:

  • Education funding increases over $80 million including:
    • An increase of $55.3 million for K-12 education.
    • An increase of $25 million for higher education including additional dollars for Last Dollar Scholarships.
  •  Healthcare funding increases of $98.1 million including:
    • An increase of $15 million for provider increases for nursing homes and home and community-based service providers.
    • An increase of $60 million for mental health services. Over the next 2 years the state will provide over $125 million for mental health services.
  • Public safety funding increases of $13 million including:
    • An increase of almost $5 million for the Department of Public Safety. 
    • An increase of just over $4.0 million for the Department of Corrections.
  • One time expenditures for broadband are not included in these targets.

Senate Republicans Advance Permanent, Reliable Tax Relief for Iowans

Today, the Iowa Senate passed SF 576 to eliminate the triggers in place restraining significant tax relief and tax simplification for Iowans and provides a certain effective date of January 1, 2023. This bill also eliminates the inheritance tax in Iowa over a period of three years.

“SF 576 provides Iowans with permanent and certain tax relief and keeps our promise to Iowans to reduce their tax burden,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “One stimulus check wears off in a matter of days or weeks. Permanent tax relief gives small businesses and Iowa families confidence to work and invest in this state. It is a long-term pro-growth strategy to expand career opportunities and help Iowans keep more of their hard-earned money. After today’s vote, I look forward to cutting Iowa income taxes even more in the future.”  

“Few functions of government are more immoral than the death tax,” said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, Chair of Ways and Means. “Iowans pay taxes on their income, their property, their vehicle, their gasoline, and nearly everything they buy for their entire life. Then, after a lifetime of paying taxes, the government arrives and demands another chunk out of the work Iowans have done. I think a lifetime of paying taxes is enough.”

Senate Republicans on Rules Review Committee Announce Opposition to Proposed Utility Board Rule

Today, Senators Waylon Brown, R-Osage, Zach Whiting, R-Spirit Lake, and Mark Costello, R-Imogene, announced their opposition to rules proposed in Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) Docket Nos. RMU-2020-0028 and RMU-2019-0024, which were released for comment on May 22, 2020.

“I have a number of concerns about these proposed rules from the Iowa Utilities Board,” said Senator Whiting. “My principal concern is the dramatic expansion of eminent domain authority the IUB appears to give itself. Private property is one of the fundamental aspects of our republic. Eroding those rights through administrative rule-making conflicts with the founding principles of our state and nation. My fellow Republican senators and I look forward to working with the other members of the Administrative Rules Review Committee members to implement a session delay should these rules continue to advance.”

“I applaud the leadership of my colleagues on the Administrative Rules Review Committee to address this administrative overreach,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “I look forward to working with the House of Representatives and governor next session to make sure Iowans’ private property rights are protected.”

The proposed rules include three noteworthy changes for counties and landowners. The first change would expand the IUB jurisdiction over the siting and construction of renewable electric generation facilities through the process of certification under Code chapter 476A. The second change would expand the Board’s authority to preempt county and other zoning ordinances and permitting requirements for the construction of wind turbines and certain other renewable generation facilities. Finally, the rules would expand the ability of a developer, upon certification of a project by the Board, to use the power of eminent domain to condemn private property for the construction of facilities.

National Group Hails Iowa’s Budgeting Practices

The Council of State Governments (CSG) recently released a report on the fiscal situations of each state in the country and the resiliency of the budgets in those states. The State of Iowa is the most fiscally sound, most resilient state in the country when it comes to battling through COVID-19, according to a new report issued in July of 2020.

“CSG’s newest report validates the conservative budgeting practices Senate Republicans have implemented for the last four years,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “Contrasted with the record of generational debt and massive cuts to K-12 education under Democrat control, Iowans can be confident in stable and predictable funding under Republican leadership.”

CSG commissioned the accounting firm KPMG to study the fiscal risk and resiliency of each state in dealing with COVID-19. The study weighed several factors including percent of GDP by industry in each state, the expected reduction of state revenues, balance in each state’s rainy day fund, each state’s debt to income ratio, the solvency of each state’s pension system and each state’s unemployment trust fund, as well as each state’s cost per enrollee in Medicaid, and growth in K-12 education funding since the Great Recession. 

The full report can be downloaded from this link: https://web.csg.org/COVID19/fiscalimpact/.

Closing Remarks from Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver

Today, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, released his closing remarks as prepared for delivery.

Mister President, Senator Petersen, and colleagues in the Senate,

At the beginning of this year, I urged my colleagues in this chamber to find bold solutions to the problems facing our state. The following weeks were busy with subcommittees, committees and floor debate, as we worked to pass legislation to work on those issues.

In January the unemployment rate was well below three percent and one of the lowest in the country. Iowa had more job openings than unemployed people looking for work. To address that problem the Senate passed bills to address the workforce shortage in our state, whether it was finding ways to bring more people who are able to work into the workforce, building on the governor’s Future Ready Iowa program, or lowering barriers to work in some professions. We worked to expand broadband and continued working on the Empower Rural Iowa initiative.

Early in session the legislature approved almost $100 million in new funding for K-12 schools, including money for per pupil equity and transportation equity among our state’s school districts. We passed legislation to help teachers facing violent students in the classroom, and give them tools to keep themselves and other students safe while they are teaching. We passed legislation to put victims first, and legislation to protect life.

However, the end of this year’s session looked very different from what we thought it would, and vastly different from all years prior. In January, nobody could have predicted the session would take a 10-week break, restart in June with no clerks or pages, and see subcommittee meetings held in the Senate Chamber in the name of public health.

Several months ago we didn’t know how a pandemic would affect our state. We never heard of the virus, the information about it changed almost daily, and the uncertainty was significant. What I do know is this: Iowans all across the state are doing the best they can to help each other, and Iowans are working to get our state back up and running for everyone.

Iowans are no stranger to hardship. Our country has seen civil war, the Great Depression, and been victim to terrorism. The agricultural economy, so vital to our state, has seen ups and downs and more uncertainty year to year than most other industries. Iowa now has record high unemployment in our state. In efforts to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many restaurants, shops and stores had to shut their doors. Unfortunately, some of those doors were shut permanently.

But Iowans always rise to the challenge. Many went out to support local businesses in their area, to help keep their neighbors afloat. I read story after story of Iowans packing up meals for kids and families in the area, and people who worked day after day to make masks for health care workers and other essential people in the workforce. Businesses across the state altered their day-to-day practices to help keep employees safe and support them to the best of their abilities. Even in hard times, Iowans are there to help each other and support one another.

Too many Iowans have lost their jobs, have had hours cut, or been forced to shut down the businesses they worked their whole lives to build. The path to recovery starts now. I believe we can get back to where our economy was, and keep moving forward to get Iowans back to work. The coronavirus will not last forever, but the actions we took this week will help put our state back on a path to prosperity.

That work started by implementing reliable and sustainable funding for the essential aspects of state government. This budget will keep the promise of nearly $100 million in new funding for K-12 education. Keeping that promise is exactly what I mean when I say our budget is reliable and sustainable. In the face of a dramatic economic downturn, this chamber made the tough choice and budgeted in the same manner Iowa families budget.

The Senate also included important legal protections to ensure job creators, churches, schools, and cities could reopen their facilities with confidence. In order to restart this economy effectively, all those entities need to know they can put forth a good faith effort to maintaining public health and be protected from a career-ending lawsuit. The last thing a small business in this state needs, after being wounded by the coronavirus, is to be killed off by a lawsuit from someone claiming they could possibly have contracted the virus in their facility.

Finally, we took big, important steps to improve the relationship between law enforcement and minorities in this state. Justice is a fundamental aspect of our government and when it is denied to an individual or a group, it is incumbent upon the elected leaders to take steps to improve the application of laws and justice.

As we finish this legislative session, I look back on the work we done and the decisions we made and I believe implemented important policies to help this state recover from the economic shocks of the coronavirus. But our work is not done. I look forward to working on issues to continue to rebuild the Iowa in the next legislative session.

Closing Remarks from Senate President Charles Schneider

Below are closing remarks from Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, as prepared for delivery.

Senators, staff, visitors, and fellow Iowans:

I believe voters send us to the capitol each year to make Iowa the best state in America to live, work and raise a family. This is an aspirational and open-ended goal, but one that we as lawmakers should always strive to attain. It’s our responsibility to the people of Iowa.

As I prepare to leave the Legislature, I am proud to say that I fought for this goal every single day since I assumed office in 2013.

For those of us who last faced the voters in 2016, this was one of the most productive and eventful terms in modern history. Since January 2017, the Legislature passed the largest income tax cuts in state history, making Iowa a more competitive place to attract jobs and people. We reformed the opaque and punitive property tax system by giving property tax payers more say on how local governments set their tax rates. We put hardworking Iowans, instead of the union bosses, in charge of the state, local governments, and school districts. We cut unnecessary rules and regulations that hindered economic growth and job creation. We protected doctors and business owners from frivolous lawsuits. We held the state budget in check. We even created the blackout license plate, the most popular specialty license place in state history!

I couldn’t be prouder of our record. I believe these reforms make Iowa a more free, fair, and prosperous place to live.

The last four years have also brought challenges we are still working to overcome. Right now, all legislators are concerned about the physical and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all outraged by the violent death of George Floyd and are sympathetic to our neighbors in the streets demanding racial justice. We are also angry at those who hid behind lawful protesters to loot and commit acts of violence.

As state leaders, it is our responsibility to lead our state through the current challenges, and back to growth and prosperity. Since 2017, we have worked closely with Governor Kim Reynolds and the House of Representatives to control spending.  We turned a structural deficit in 2017 into the surpluses that are sustaining us through these challenging times. As a result, Iowa is in a stronger position right now than many other states. While the pandemic is forcing other states to make devastating cuts, Iowa has the resources to withstand a significant drop in revenue while keeping its promises to Iowans.

I expect state leaders will continue to work with stakeholders in pursuit of racial justice in Iowa. Our reforms this year are a down payment on what will be a long-term discussion about racial justice in our state. As these conversations move forward, I am optimistic about their outcome. Iowans are a welcoming people. Most Iowans are accepting of anyone who works hard, is a good neighbor, and plays by the rules. I believe our state gains strength from its diversity. I am confident that when sensible Iowans of all races, genders, orientations, and backgrounds come together to solve a problem, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

I am optimistic about our future. In my time as a senator, and specifically as President of the Senate, I traveled the state from river to river. I spoke with Iowans from every walk of life. I know Iowans can take on anything that comes their way. We are hard-working, resilient, and never afraid of challenge or hardship. Iowans are kind and compassionate. And, from the emails and phone calls I receive, and questions I get at forums, I know first-hand that Iowans are knowledgeable and tough, always asking difficult questions of those they elect and willing to hold us accountable.

There will be long days ahead as we continue to fight the pandemic and transform our society into one where everyone can achieve the American dream. We will continue to mourn those we lost to COVID-19, care for the sick, confront economic insecurity, and work for justice. And when this difficult night turns to dawn, we will see a bright future for Iowa on the horizon.

My goal has always been for this state to be one where everybody can be successful, where there are opportunities for people to further their education, start a business, or settle down with family. Iowa is and should always be a place where anyone can come and build their American dream, however that may look.

I am proud to leave the Iowa Senate knowing that I achieved many of my goals, and knowing that the future of our state is in very capable hands. Thank you to all of my senate colleagues, past and present, on both sides of the aisle for your friendship, support, and leadership. It was an honor to serve with you, debate beside you, and work towards building an even better Iowa.