Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver’s opening day remarks as prepared for delivery.
Thank you Mr. President.
Mr. President, Senators, staff, families, and friends —- Good morning and welcome to the 88th General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature.
It is great to be back today in this historic chamber, and great to see so many friends and colleagues. We are a citizen legislature, here from all walks of life. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, small business owners, and farmers, to name a few. We bring a variety of experiences to the table, and represent even more back in our home districts. We are here to represent the interests of everyone who has the privilege of calling our great state home.
To our nine new members in this chamber, I want to welcome you to the Iowa Senate. I wish you the best as you are sworn in and represent your respective districts. My hope for you as you begin your time serving in the Iowa Senate is that you never forget WHY you ran. No matter if you serve one term, or 5 terms, it is extremely important to always remember why you first put your name on the ballot.
And, that is a question I would ask all of you here in this room… why is it that you first ran for office. What is your WHY?
As I begin my first session as Majority Leader and have been thinking a lot about our agenda for the upcoming session, it is a question I have found myself thinking a lot about lately.
I am blessed to have my wife and children here today. For years, when my kids asked me what we do in the Iowa Senate, I always said “We make laws.” Last week, my oldest daughter Ella asked me what we do in the Senate and I had a different answer. I told her, “We work to make your life better.” Shortly after saying that, it struck me…..We are not here to change laws; we are here to change lives.
Our mission is simple: Improve the lives of Iowans through challenging the status quo and reforming Iowa for the next generation.
Looking toward the next generation is extremely important to me. Not just because I have three young children of my own, but because too often politicians are too worried about the next election to think about the next generation.
This should never be the case. As we begin our 2019 session, our focus should not be on the next election; instead we must look toward lifting up our next generation.
When I think about the last two years, I often think about a quote I first heard while in business school at Iowa State – from a best-selling business author – he said, “Greatness is not a matter of circumstance, greatness is a choice.”
Over the past two years, this body has CHOSEN greatness. We have made a conscious decision to make our state the Number One state in the nation. We have made tough decisions, taken political risks – we have chosen greatness for the state of Iowa.
Those choices are not always easy. Often in politics, the greatest challenge is not finding the solution. We often know what the solution is. The greatest challenge is finding the political will to make it happen.
I am proud this body has shown the political will to make those tough decisions.
Two years ago, we set out to implement a better job climate in the state of Iowa. Today, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the entire nation. We went from a state asking “where are the jobs” to a state asking “where are the workers?”
Two years ago, we set out to improve our educational system in the state of Iowa. Today, schools have more local control over their school districts; have more flexibility with the financial resources we give them and more funding for transportation in our rural districts.
Two years ago, we inherited a budget with a $113 million deficit. Today we have a balanced budget, our cash reserves are full, and we have an expected surplus of over $196 million in the current budget year.
Two years ago, we had one of the highest tax burdens in America. Last year we passed historic tax reform resulting in the largest tax cut in Iowa history for hard-working Iowans.
Additionally over the past two years we have passed mental health reform, water quality legislation, tort reform, strengthened Iowans 2nd Amendment rights, and protected the sanctity of life.
The past two years have been the most productive and historic two years this state has ever seen. It is hard to argue with the results — we were named the Number One state in the nation by US News and World Report.
As I traveled the state this last election cycle meeting with Iowans, we talked about the progress we have made. At every stop, I said that this last election would be a defining moment in the history of our state – where the people would decide which direction we want to go and what kind of state we want to be.
I am grateful the people of Iowa have given us the responsibility and honor of continuing to lead in the Iowa Senate. They expect us to step up to make tough decisions and continue down the path that has made us Number One. We are grateful the voters have joined us in choosing greatness for the state of Iowa!
Now, as we look toward the upcoming session, we will continue to deliver bold action to build our workforce, continue to reduce taxes, and reduce government dependence in our state.
We will continue to be dedicated to our pro-growth agenda for Iowa – growth for our businesses, growth for our schools, and growth for our rural and urban areas.
We are devoted to the Iowans who elected us to this chamber and we are committed to keeping the promises we made on the campaign trail.
We will continue to challenge the status quo and continue to push reforms that will keep us as the Number One state in the nation.
I am honored to serve as the majority leader of Iowa Senate, and look forward to working with each and every one of you to make Iowa the best we can.
Let’s get to work!