The 2022 legislature in Iowa begins Monday. Then 150 elected officials from across the state will gather for a few months at the Des Moines Statehouse to pass new state laws and decide how the Iower’s money will be spent on taxes.
This marks the sixth straight year Republicans have full control over changing state laws and spending taxpayers’ money. Here are some of the key issues Republican and Democratic lawmakers are looking to address this year:
Further tax cuts
Republican leaders in the House and Senate say their top priority is lowering income taxes for individuals. They say Iowa’s revenue growth projections and record-breaking budget surplus are enough to warrant deeper tax cuts this year, even if the tax cuts they decided last year won’t take effect until 2023. Some GOP legislators have even announced that they want to phase out income tax entirely.
Governor Kim Reynolds also plans to cut taxes, telling reporters that she would propose a tax cut plan at the start of the legislature.
“We need to be financially responsible in the way we do this,” Reynolds said last week. âWe have to make sure we can hold it. We have to take care of our expenses. But most of all, we need to make sure we can continue to fund priorities that are important to Iowan – public safety, education – and I think we’ve proven we can. “
Democrats say they are working on their own tax cut plan that will focus on middle class families.
When asked to define the middle class in terms of income levels, Senate minority leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville said, “In general, I don’t think Democrats will vote for a tax bill that will cut taxes on millionaires, period . âWahls also said that the abolition of income tax would be aâ disaster âas it accounts for about half of the state budget.
The labor shortage
Republicans and Democrats agree that a “crisis” is afoot in the workforce and that they must work to resolve it during this term. Leaders from both parties have said they want to improve access to childcare and affordable housing, and they want to continue Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa programs, which focus on training Iowers to fill certain much-needed jobs.
Earlier this year, Reynolds said changing the rules on unemployment benefits will be part of her plan to address worker issues. New job search requirements went into effect this week, but the governor hasn’t said what additional changes she will be asking lawmakers to make.
“The unemployment bill was written a long, long, long time ago when we were in a very different situation,” Reynolds said. “And today we have to create incentives to work, not pay people to stay at home.”
House minority leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said unemployment benefits don’t keep people from working.
âWe have to look at the fact that if employers aren’t paying enough to make people pay for childcare, pay their rent, pay for food, and people can’t afford to go back to work, then the problem is on the wage side, isn’t on the unemployed side, âsaid Konfrst.
Schools are also grappling with labor shortages, and Senate Education Committee chair Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said she was working on a bill to improve teacher and school staff retention.
But she said that getting a “parental rights statement” passed was her top priority.
“Parents have the right to know what their children are taught,” said Sinclair. âParents have the right to access teaching materials. Parents have the right to make these decisions about how and when their child can find out about a particular topic. “
Sinclair said parents should be able to deny students access to books from the school library that they consider inappropriate. According to a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Education, local school authorities set guidelines for parents to review and challenge school supplies.
The Democratic leaders said they also want to focus on alleviating the shortage of school staff.
“I would say, however, that a lot of the ideas thrown around don’t make it easier to get teachers into the class,” said Konfrst. “Threatening to put her in jail for a crime involving books, for example, and also to talk about removing books.”
Two other prominent state senators called for criminal penalties for teachers who make âobsceneâ books available in schools.
Each legislature discusses funding for K-12 public schools, community colleges, and public universities in Iowa. Reynolds said she’ll make another push this year for government-funded voucher-style scholarships for children to go to private schools.