The 2014 Iowa legislative session is underway. Senate President Pam Jochum (YOH-kum) — a Democrat from Dubuque — got things going in the senate shortly after 10 o’clock.
“Good morning everyone. I actually really missed working with all of you during the interim, so I’m glad to be back and back at it,” Jochum said. “Welcome to the 2014 session of the 84th General Assembly of the Iowa legislature.”
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs used his opening day speech to focus on an economic message.
“Strengthening and expanding Iowa’s middle class is what each of us should be thinking about from the moment we walk into this building from the moment we walk into this building to the time the doors close behind us at night,” Gronstal said.
Democrats like House Minority Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown plan to press for an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
“Today, many Iowa parents are working two or three jobs that are low-paying, trying to put food on the table and pay the bills,” Smith said. “…We owe it to Iowa to raise the minimum wage, perhaps a dollar an hour now and more in the future. Our experience in Iowa has shown that raising the minimum wage has little effect on businesses, but gives working Iowans hope for a better future.”
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen — a Republican from Hiawatha — was among the majority of legislators who voted to increase the state minimum wage in 2007, but Paulsen told reporters late this morning that it’s unlikely the Republican-led House will embrace the idea in 2014.
“It is extremely important right in particular with all the uncertainty that Washington, D.C. interjects that we not cause more uncertainty and what we’re interested in doing is making sure that Iowa sends a message that’s encouraging to employers to invest,” Paulsen said. “…We think that makes it harder.”
House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake used her opening day speech to argue decision-makers in Des Moines don’t function like the politicians in D.C. do.
“In Iowa, we still put people before politics,” Upmeyer said. “We still come together to get our work done. We still hold ourselves accountable.”
During his speech, Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said new federal taxes will burden Iowa’s middle class.
“It’s up to each of us as state lawmakers to help ease that burden,” Dix said. “We must explore income tax reform to put more money back in Iowans’ pockets as well as make Iowa more appealing to businesses looking to expand and looking to relocate here in our great state.”
While Republicans in the legislature are touting for a flat, 4.5 percent state income tax, Republican Governor Terry Branstad has said the political reality is Democrats who control the debate agenda in the senate are opposed to the idea and it will never pass this year. Democrats argue a flat income tax is a big tax reduction for the wealthy.