Below are the opening day remarks of Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, as prepared for delivery:
Mister President and colleagues of the Senate,
The 2022 legislative session provides exciting opportunities for us as we continue our work to make Iowa the best state in the country – the best state to live, the best state to work, and the best state to raise your family. Recently, Iowa was rated as one of the best states for opportunity. We were named the state in the strongest position to withstand the Covid pandemic and we were also named the fastest state to recover from it. After 5 years of a Republican trifecta, Iowa’s success is no longer subjective – it’s objective.
In the five years since Republicans have had the majority in the Iowa Senate, we have enacted legislation to help Iowa grow and make the state better for those who call it home. The priority being tax relief for those hard-working people who make our state the great place it is. After implementing conservative, responsible budgeting practices, we passed truly historic income tax relief and we have continued to pass tax relief measures every year. We started as one of the states with the highest, most complicated income taxes in the country. Even after the measures we have taken, we have more work to do.
In a post pandemic economy, the competition is fierce for jobs and citizens. If policy makers want this state to grow, then we must be on the list of states with the lowest income tax in America.
Census data from 2021 was released recently and it showed a dark picture for states with high tax rates, punitive regulations, and regular lockdowns. Look no farther than east of the Mississippi river to see a state lose more than 140,000 residents last year. High taxes, closed schools, and an oppressive government chase residents to other states. Just like Illinois, California and New York have all had a net loss of hundreds of thousands of residents. People are voting with their feet and with their wallets. They are moving to low tax, pro freedom states.
In an increasingly competitive and fluid economy, we must improve Iowa’s competitive advantage to attract new residents and create new career opportunities. We started down that path in 2017 by implementing sound, reliable, and sustainable budgets and maintained that discipline each year. We continued in 2018 by passing the largest income tax cut in Iowa history. In 2019 we approved property tax transparency and in 2021 we accelerated the 2018 tax cuts and eliminated a property tax levy. All of that work has set the stage for another significant reduction in the income tax rates.
We have almost a billion dollars in the rainy day funds. Another billion in the taxpayer trust fund. Another billion dollar projected surplus in this current budget year, and a huge structural surplus as we brought in almost a billion dollars more than we spent this year.
In short, our policies are working and that success has led to an overcollection of taxes on hard working Iowans. When Republicans collect too much of your hard earned dollars, we will keep our promise to give it back. We must return that money to taxpayers in the form of major, permanent pro-growth tax reform. Iowans deserve a simpler, more transparent, and more competitive tax code.
It is more important now than ever for Iowans to keep what they earn and be motivated to join the workforce so our economy can continue to grow. Cutting taxes is not only good for the hard-working Iowans who earned it, but also for small businesses paying that same rate. They have more money to invest and build their business. More money to reward employees with higher wages, attract new customers, and expand their opportunities. It makes Iowa more competitive with the states around us, and a more attractive place to live.
One of my colleagues has already been quoted as saying we are looking at building a 21st century model for our tax code, and that there is no reason we should settle for mediocrity. The tax code should not punish Iowans for wanting more in life, trying to provide more for your family, or getting a promotion at work.
In addition to tax relief, Iowans from nearly every sector of the economy are looking for solutions to the demand for workforce. I would propose instead of creating another government program to fix a government-created problem, we get government out of the way and empower Iowans to solve the problem. Let’s make it easier to open and operate a child care facility in Iowa so Iowa parents who want to return to the workforce, can. Let’s eliminate outdated licensing requirements and make sure someone with the necessary training and skills can get to work sooner, without government-imposed delays. Let’s ensure Iowa’s public assistance programs are there for the truly needy and not a lifestyle option for healthy, capable Iowans. Let’s improve the tangible incentive to work by reducing income taxes on all Iowans.
I am proud to be the leader of this caucus and proud of the accomplishments we have made so far. I am most proud because we deliver on the promises we make to Iowans. Promises like sustainable budgets, reliable funding for education, empowering parents in their children’s education and supporting law enforcement.
We will not stop now. The Senate Republican agenda for this session is tax relief for Iowans, and we do not intend to waste the opportunity we have here with one-time checks. We are here to deliver real, permanent tax reform to give employers and families the confidence to know their work and investments will be worth the risk.
You have all heard me say we shouldn’t be just thinking and working for next year, but for the next generation of Iowans, and the next generation after that. Nothing we do here is just for today.
Colleagues, we begin the 2022 session with Iowa in the strongest position we have ever been. The 5 years of hard work, leadership by many of you in this room, and the patience for our policies to work, has given us a tremendous opportunity.
When given an opportunity, we must deliver. We must keep our promises to the voters who send us to the capitol. Promises that ensure that the next generation of Iowans is better off than we are.
Few policies have shown more long-term growth impact than significant, permanent income tax cuts. Implementing pro-growth tax policy to make Iowa one of the fastest growing states in the country is policy that makes a generational difference.
It is great to see everyone back at the Capitol. Let’s get to work.