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.