Governor pushes tax cuts, school reforms, work priorities
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that Iowans can expect another round of tax cuts, proposed legislation to prod unemployed Iowans to find jobs and proposals to address a shortage of teachers and child care workers.
The Republican governor and legislative leaders spoke at an annual pre-session legislative forum organized by the Iowa Capitol Press Association.
Reynolds said she will announce her plans in her Condition of the State address next week and work with legislators at a time when the state has a surplus of about $2 billion, with revenues coming in ahead of expectations.
“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.
Republicans will hold a 32-18 majority in the Senate and a 60-40 majority in the House, enabling them to propose and pass any legislation they want despite Democratic objection.
Reynolds said Iowa is collecting too much tax revenue and needs to cut income taxes to be more competitive nationally. Iowa is ranked 35th for the highest income tax rate out of the 42 states that collect the tax, Reynolds said, and while previous tax cuts will move Iowa to 26th, it won’t remain there as other states are aggressively moving toward cuts.
House Speaker Pat Grassley agreed, saying his caucus supports not just a one-time return of cash to taxpayers but a long-term reduction in the tax burden on middle-class taxpayers.
Senate Democratic leader Zach Wahls said Democrats are concerned about talks by some Republicans to eliminate the income tax and what that would mean for spending on public education, Medicaid, prisons and public safety.
Republican Sen. Amy Sinclair said proposals out of the Senate will include cuts to individual income taxpayers.
Reynolds also said Iowa has too few workers. She noted that 66% of those who are unemployed are between the ages of 25 and 66, which she said is due to a lack of training for available jobs and a lack of incentives to push people to work.
She said there will be a review of unemployment statutes, many written long ago, to update them for a new economy with a focus on “the need to incentivize work and not for people to stay home.” She said an inadequate workforce is one of the biggest issues facing lawmakers.
Sinclair said Republicans would propose a parental bill of rights that provides more information about educational materials and what children are taught and gives parents more control over that process. She also said it will address concerns with books in school libraries to ensure age-appropriate content.
House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said Republicans should be careful about proposals that would remove books from libraries.
Sinclair, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said she is working on a bill with input from associations representing school board members and administrators that focuses on recruitment and retention of teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cooks and others. She said she plans to also include some licensing reform designed to help bolster the education workforce.
Reynolds said there will be proposals to further address the shortage of child care access in Iowa.
Reynolds and Republican leaders, who this year will have controlled the House and Senate for six years, agreed they will likely wait for court rulings on issues of vaccine mandates and abortion before proceeding with further state laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to make decisions on both issues in the coming months.