Without question, Iowans are better off now than they were two years ago, Iowa Republicans said Thursday.
Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Republicans who want to take control of the Iowa Senate joined Gov. Terry Branstad in providing an optimistic view of the Iowa economic and budgetary landscape and in sketching out changes they believe are needed to improve the state’s business climate and spur job creation.
“Absolutely, I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, in response to the question whether the state’s residents are better off now than when the 84th Iowa General Assembly was elected two years ago. “I think unquestionably.” And, added Sen. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, things would be even better now had Democrats who hold a 26-24 Senate majority supported GOP efforts to permanently reduce commercial and industrial property tax rates, eliminate burdensome government regulations and red tape, and reduced personal and corporate income taxes.
Paulsen said the split-control Legislature succeeded in getting state spending under control via a sustainable budget, boosted funding for education and “sent an extremely powerful message that Iowa is open for business” by improving the regulatory climate and halting “job-killing” proposals that had surfaced during sessions when Democrats controlled the Legislature and the governorship.
With Republicans holding a 60-40 edge in the Iowa House and needing to pick up just two seats in the Iowa Senate to hold sway over state government, top GOP legislators and Branstad unveiled parts of their unified “Iowa Strong” agenda that seeks to promote job creation through property and income tax relief and reform, make Iowa a bio-science corridor via new strategic state investments in bio-science innovations in partnership with state universities, make Iowa the easiest state in the nation to start a business, and protect workers by amending the state constitution to guarantee that Iowa is a right-to-work state.
Republicans pledged to roll back the property taxes currently assessed at 100 percent valuation for businesses and industries in Iowa, but in a way that did not shift higher tax burdens on other property classes and would prevent local governments from being harmed due to property tax changes. They also promised to flatten and lower income tax rates on individuals and employers, but offered no specifics on any of their tax relief and reform commitments.
“We are not revealing the details of this today,” Branstad said. “We are committed to this. We intend to follow through and do exactly what we talk about in this campaign.”
Paulsen said the property tax concept likely would be similar to a package House Republicans passed last session that sought to provide $1.2 billion in relief over eight years that included a component to phase out property taxes supporting K-12 education so funding was 100 percent state aid. House Republicans also support a 20 percent cut in the state’s individual income tax rates.
The Republicans present declined to discuss the possibility of a state gas tax increase being considered by the 85th General Assembly.
“We’re not addressing that, no,” the governor said. “That is not one of the issues that we are choosing to focus on.”
The GOP leaders said they hoped to make Iowa’s economy stronger through tax relief and reform, eliminating bureaucratic red tape that hurt businesses, increasing career opportunities by investing in a skilled and competitive workforce, and by sending a strong message across the country and world that Iowa is a great place to start and grow a business. To that end, they said they will require regulatory bodies to consider and publish the impact any proposed new rules or regulations may have on jobs in Iowa, require regulatory bodies to establish timelines to handle applications and permits so bureaucracy is not slowing down economic growth, and conduct a review of all fees charged by agencies to limit the fees being collected to the actual cost of government to provide the service.
Legislative Democrats said they looked forward to working with Republicans to create jobs and help middle-class families prosper.
“While there are some points we can work together on, the Republican agenda is just more of the same and it creates winners and losers. The winners are large out of state corporations that get huge tax breaks. The losers are middle class families who will pay higher taxes to make up the difference,” said House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, added that “if Republicans can show that their approach on taxes can help create good jobs here in Iowa, we will take a look at it. At the same time, we will protect what is already working to help Iowa economy: investing in community colleges, targeted tax cuts, and great local schools.”
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