The 2022 Iowa legislative session kicks off later this (Monday) morning at the Capitol in Des Moines.
Republicans hold the majority of seats in the Iowa House and Senate, giving the GOP control of the policy agenda. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has made clear priority number one will be tax cuts, but she won’t reveal her policy proposals until tomorrow night during the annual “Condition of the State” address.
“But you can look for a bold and historic agenda that includes among other things another round of tax cuts, a comprehensive workforce package and, of course, continued education reform,” Reynolds said last week during a forum sponsored by the Iowa Capitol Press Association.
Speaker Pat Grassley, the top Republican in the House, said there are several issues related to parental involvement in education. “You’re seeing continued interest in parents having their voices heard,” Grassley said.
There’s no resolution yet, though, over the governor’s proposal to have the state give parents in a handful of districts state money to send their kids to a private school. The plan failed to advance in 2021 after a few House Republicans along with all the Democrats raised concerns.
Grassley said tax conversations are going to be the most “significant part” of the 2022 session, due to the surplus that’s been deposited in the state’s Taxpayer Relief Fund.
“With a billion dollars of overpayment from Iowa’s taxpayers, I think it’s imperative on the part of the legislature to make sure we’re getting that back in the hands of Iowans,” Grassley said.
Governor Reynolds has said the long-term goal should be to eliminate the state income tax. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, said complete elimination of the income tax would forever eliminate about half of the state’s total revenue.
“If the income tax is eliminated, millionaires and billionaires would have a $325 million tax cut. I think they’ve had enough tax cuts, so I think it’s time to focus those tax cuts on Iowa’s working and middle class, people who’ve been left out before,” Konfrst said.
Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville said the state’s flush with cash because of federal pandemic relief.
“The idea that we’re going to spend these one-time dollars on a permanent elimination of the income tax doesn’t make sense,” Wahls said.
Democrats say some of the state’s billion dollar surplus should be used on other priorities, like shoring up public schools that face teacher shortages. Republicans say there will be money in the general state budget for education. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny said the surplus is expected to double to more than two billion dollars by this summer.
“We want to use that to reduce taxes and, again, focus on the individual income tax rate to get that as low and as competitive as we possibly can,” Whitver said.
The Senate and House are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. today. Shortly after convening, Republican Dave Rowley of Spirit Lake will be sworn in as a member of the senate. He won a special election in Senate District 1 in December to replace a Republican senator who resigned and moved to Texas for a job there.