Governor Terry Branstad made a rare appearance in the Iowa House this morning to watch as legislators took the final votes on a plan supporters say will cut taxes by at least $400 million over the next four years.
“We are really delighted,” Branstad told reporters after he shook hands with the top Republican in the legislature. “This is a good example of bipartisan cooperation, making some tough decisions that have been put off for decades (in) this last bill of significant property tax relief for the taxpayers of Iowa.”
The bill will reduce commercial property tax rates by 10 percent over the next two years and it creates a new commercial property tax credit. The bill includes an increase in an income tax credit that benefits low-income Iowans as well as a new “Taxpayer Trust Fund” tax credit that will be worth about $60 per taxpayer this year.
Branstad has repeatedly said the state should not accept the lure of federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more uninsured Iowans, but in the end he is accepting a compromise that means the state will take the money, but a sort of hybrid plan is created that will see the part of the money used for the purchase of private insurance and the rest to finance new benefits that will require participants to follow doctor’s orders to improve their health, or pay part of the premium.
“This new Iowa Health & Wellness Plan…puts Iowa in the forefront of our goal to be the healthiest state in the nation and refocuses the health system on things that are really going to help people improve their health and wellbeing, rather than just put more people in the system,” Branstad told reporters.
Branstad said “everybody” in the legislature and in his own office deserve credit for the achievements of the 2013 session, including that tax plan, the health care reform compromise and an education reform package that passed the House and Senate yesterday.
“We had certain priorities. The House had certain priorities. The Senate had certain priorities and we tried to bring those together to make it a win-win and at the end of the day we were able to accomplish that on all of these big issues,” Branstad said.
Branstad is nearing the end of his fifth term as governor and this is the 19th year he’s negotiated deals with legislators.
“I think it’s the best that I can remember…in terms of getting big things accomplished,” Branstad said. “Property tax relief has been really really tough for a long, long period of time.”
The governor said he and legislators wanted to show that, in contract to Washington, D.C., Iowa lawmakers could “work together…instead of spending all our time in conflict.”