Republican Governor Kim Reynolds says her “Invest in Iowa” tax plan has been delayed by the pandemic, but not forgotten. Reynolds spoke during the Iowa Taypayers Association’s online meeting Thursday, just before announcing the state’s plan to distribute the first batches of Covid-19 vaccine.
“We’re going to get through it and things are looking better every day,” Reynolds said, “so I guess if nothing else I want all of your members to hear we’re in a good spot and we’re moving in the right direction and I look forward to 2021.”
In early 2020, Reynolds called for cutting state income taxes by 10% and raising the state sales tax to finance water quality projects and to replace property taxes spent on mental health care.
“While the pandemic cut our discussion short on those and other tax reforms, I want you to know they’ve just been delayed, not forgotten,” Reynolds said. “And the very fact that I can even say, that I can even mention the words ‘tax cuts’ in 2020, it is strictly because Iowa has kept its fiscal house in order.”
Due to $1.2 billion in federal pandemic aid, the governor is overseeing a state budget surplus of at least $300 million, with more than $700 million in reserves. Reynolds said that shows the state budget is in a strong position and there are opportunities “to deliver tax savings” to Iowans in 2021.
“We’re not facing massive budget shortfalls like many states are facing and all you have to do is look to the north or to the east, just look around the country,” she said, “and we’ve not experienced really any notable changes in tax revenue.”
Four legislators from key committees spoke to the tax group after the governor. Republican Representative Lee Hein of Monticello — chairman of the Ways and Means tax-writing Committee in the House — shared a note of caution about making a “huge tax cut” before assessing the full economic impact of the pandemic.
“I keep chirping this unknown of where we’re at with all the things that went on in 2020,” Hein said, “but I truly believe that we need to be very prudent in how we move forward in the next year or so until we get a true handle on where the economy will take us.”
Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, predicted there won’t be room for tax cuts as legislators respond to the impact the pandemic has had on small businesses and individuals.
“Financially it’s going to be very hard for us to make a lot of adjustments in taxes because we still have to keep the lights on,” Jochum said. “We still have to keep the school doors open.”
The 2021 legislative session begins January 11.