Rank and file lawmakers adjourned for the week and went home today, leaving behind key negotiators to work out a tax deal so the 2018 legislative session can come to a close.
There is broad agreement among Republicans in the House, the Senate, and the governor’s office that income tax cuts are needed so Iowans can take full advantage of federal tax cuts. Each of their plans provide additional tax relief beyond that, while the Senate plan cuts taxes most aggressively of the three.
Negotiators say they are optimistic an agreement can be reached by week’s end, with the option of continuing to talk into Saturday.
“If we have to, absolutely,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the principal author of the Senate plan. “It’s time to finish this up.”
One sticking point is how much of a hit the state budget can absorb from tax cuts.
“Just last week the Governor and the house were in agreement on $200 million,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, referring to the size of the hit on the state budget for Fiscal year 2020.
The Senate plan would take nearly $300 million off the table, making it unavailable for education, social services, and other budget needs.
“It's all compromise and so we're going to perhaps push our comfort a little bit and see where we can get,” Upmeyer said.
Another key negotiator, House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Guy Vander Linden, appeared determined not to endanger state programs through tax cuts.
“The House won’t agree to a bill that causes budget grief in the future,” Vander Linden said. “We are not going to write a tax bill that guts the appropriations bills.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Reynolds has stepped up involvement in the talks. She canceled an economic development trip to New York City, sending acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg in her place.
“We're going to get together again this afternoon," Reynolds said at a public appearance Thursday morning. "And that's how you get to consensus."
Rep. Vander Linden was asked if Reynolds is acting as the chief arbitrator.
“I kinda hope the governor is serving as a driving force,” Vander Linden said.
Upmeyer said Republicans can always come back next year and cut taxes more. She dismissed a suggestion that the GOP could lose control of the House or Senate in fall elections and so they should go for the biggest possible tax cuts this year.
“I don’t accept that premise,” Upmeyer said.
Follow Joyce Russell on Twitter: @russell_ipr