DES MOINES – Any issue that hopes to move in the split-control Iowa Legislature next year will have to develop bipartisan support early to pass in an election-year session that may not span the full 100 days that are scheduled, leaders said Wednesday.
“I think if there isn’t some consensus fairly early in session on an issue, its likelihood diminishes pretty significantly,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. “We’re looking to try to figure what are those handful of things we can move the state forward on.”
Paulsen said that points to the possibility that the 2014 legislative session may end before the expected 100-day run, while Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, speculated the session will run its full scheduled course as lawmakers focus on making sure major property tax, education, health care and workforce development initiatives approved in 2013 are proceeding as they were envisioned.
“I think you’ll see us spend much of the time on making sure what we think we had done is what actually has happened,” Paulsen told a legislative forum sponsored by the Des Moines Partnership. “I think you’ll see a whole lot of this trust but verify.”
Both Republicans and Democrats agreed that tax policy, education, infrastructure needs, health care, and growing both jobs and the economy will get much of the attention when the General Assembly convenes its 2014 work on Jan. 13.
Gov. Terry Branstad, who will present his agenda and budget plan to lawmakers on Jan. 14, told a West Des Moines group Wednesday that he’s considering a proposal to allow taxpayers the option of filing their income taxes using a system with lower rates but fewer deductions or sticking. He promoted the idea last year as well but property tax reform was the focal point of the 2013 session.
Lawmakers said the attention could turn to income tax changes next session but it was unclear if a bipartisan consensus would emerge in the House controlled by Republicans and the Senate where Democrats hold a majority.
“I think we need a fairer tax system in Iowa and we ought to all get together and work towards that.
Our current system is unfair to working people making less than $75,000 a year. They pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“The governor has an interesting proposal but I think we ought to work for a fairer system for working people in this state and that’s what we’ll be advocating for next session,” he said.
Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the GOP House previously sent the Iowa Senate a two-tiered approach similar to what Branstad envisions, as well as a 20 percent across-the-board income tax cut and a proposal to reduce income and corporate tax brackets and rates.
“Right now there are a lot of different ideas on what we could do,” he said. “I think the main thing is that we’ll be looking at ways to flatten and simplify Iowa’s income tax system and how we do that is yet to be seen.”
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