Below are closing remarks from Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R – Ankeny, as prepared for delivery.
Mister President, Senator Petersen and colleagues in the Senate,
I will start by expressing my gratitude to the staff and senators in this building for all the work they have done this session. It is a privilege to lead such a dynamic and unified caucus. Every day I have the distinct honor of being a part of a caucus full of leaders with bold, fresh ideas for our state. Even with all our differences, our caucus remains committed to each other as a team.
It is hard to believe the 2019 session is drawing to a close. Just 103 short days ago, I asked you all to keep in mind the reason you ran for office. I ran for office to make our state and country a better place for my kids and our family – a place where they can grow up, go to school, succeed in a career they enjoy and spend a lifetime in a place we all love and are proud to call home…Iowa.
When we began the 2019 Legislative Session I urged my colleagues in this body to be bold, challenge the status quo and enact meaningful policies that serve as a roadmap for the next generation to flourish for decades to come. I urged us to maintain the reform-minded perspective of the first two years in the majority. Together we set an agenda to strengthen and grow our economy, while allowing Iowans to keep more of their hard-earned money.
To implement that agenda, we did not want to just make small changes to a couple lines in an Iowa Code book; instead, we focused on generational changes to bring more prosperity, growth and opportunity to our state.
These policies are already yielding an abundance of positive results. We rank as one of the top states for jobs, high school graduation and concurrent enrollment. Our unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. Last year, Iowa was rated the Number One state in America by US News and World Report. Achieving that top ranking is not easy – but staying there is even more challenging.
This year, we provided an additional $89 million in sustainable funding for our K-12 schools, and extended the sales tax dedicated to help support their infrastructure costs. We passed four welfare reform bills to make those programs run more effectively and efficiently. These bills help ensure assistance is only for those truly in need, encourages people to join the workforce, and could save taxpayers millions of dollars. We passed a bill to protect Iowa businesses and workers, and promote better hiring practices through the use of E-Verify. We created a children’s mental health system in our state. We passed legislation to allow our state’s farmers to grow another crop and another to level the playing field for utility customers. We passed a bill to protect Iowa’s agriculture industry, and a bill to protect the First Amendment rights of students at our public universities.
We proposed a budget that was conservative, responsible and sustainable. It funded the necessities of our state, like education and public safety, and provided the state a cushion to respond to the massive flooding in western Iowa. Responsible budgeting always has been important to this caucus, just as it is important to every hard-working person in our state.
One of the number one concerns we heard when talking with Iowans over the last couple years was property taxes. And, they have reason to be concerned. Property tax collections have more than doubled in the last 18 years. These increases exceed more than $3 billion across Iowa. Meanwhile, during that same time frame, Iowans incomes have risen only 43 percent.
After passing income tax relief for Iowa’s hard-working families during the last Legislative Session, this year we passed property tax reform, to control increases for those who have seen their assessments rise year after year, improve transparency, and hold public officials accountable for any increase in property taxes.
Our work doesn’t stop when we leave this building. There are many issues we can work on next year and continue to forge a path to help grow our economy, retain young graduates and attract new Iowans to call our state home.
I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for another outstanding session and for all the work we accomplished. Thank you for the thoughtful debate and discussion and the work you do on behalf of your constituents and our great state. We made a lot of progress this year for Iowa and Iowans, and I look forward to working with all of you next January as we continue this journey toward long-term prosperity.