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Top Iowa Senate Republican says tax cuts are number one priority in 2022

jack whitver
John Pemble
/
IPR
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver says tax cuts are the number one priority for Senate Republicans in the 2022 legislative session.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, says tax cuts are the number one priority for Senate Republicans in the 2022 legislative session.

Whitver said Tuesday in an interview with IPR that his long-term goal is to eliminate the state income tax, but it’s not clear if that can happen next year.

He said the state is in a strong financial position with a more than $1 billion surplus last fiscal year, another big surplus predicted for this year, and 1.7 percent revenue growth projected the following year.

“That provides a lot of opportunities here in Iowa to where we can have it all,” Whitver said. “We can make investments where we need to make investments for the state, but we can also reduce taxes. And so we have a lot of opportunity to really push the state forward.”

Whitver said he hopes to have a specific tax proposal in January.

Lawmakers approved income tax cuts earlier this year after House and Senate Republicans couldn’t come to an agreement for several weeks. Those cuts take effect in 2023.

Asked why they don’t want to wait for those cuts to kick in before making more changes, Whitver said the reductions in state revenue are already taken into account by financial experts, and he believes there’s room for more tax cuts.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said getting rid of the income tax would be a “catastrophe” for the state because that revenue makes up nearly half of the state budget.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said at a recent legislative panel hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership that any tax changes should benefit workers.

“I think it’s pretty important to realize that when you’re talking about cutting a lot of taxes, and then raising a sales tax, the impact of that is disproportionately on the working poor,” Konfrst said. “And I think that’s not acceptable.”

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said at the same event that Senate Republicans do not want to raise the sales tax, and he believes eliminating some corporate tax credits could make up for some of the revenue lost by cutting income taxes.

House Republican leaders have said they want to cut taxes again, but they have not called for eliminating the income tax.

“The thing to remember is that surplus is great, but it’s one-time money,” said Rep. Brent Siegrist, R-Council Bluffs. “It’s your savings account. And so whatever you do tax-wise, you have to make sure it’s sustainable for four, five years.”

Whitver said addressing the workforce shortage is also a priority. He said the state is in a strong financial position to pay for expanding access to child care, and he wants to look to a recent child care task force report for answers.

“What is government’s role in trying to make this more affordable and accessible? And hopefully, we can take some of those ideas and really improve child care in the state of Iowa,” Whitver said.

Will GOP lawmakers pass more abortion restrictions?

Whitver said there’s currently a lot of uncertainty in the push to restrict abortion.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. And Republican lawmakers are asking the Iowa Supreme Court to use an upcoming abortion-related case to undermine a 2018 ruling that declared strong protections for abortion rights in the state.

“From my standpoint, until those two cases are sorted out, we probably don’t need to do anything,” Whitver said. “But once those are sorted out, then maybe there may be a bill in the future. But right now, I don’t have one in front of me.”

Republican lawmakers approved language for a constitutional amendment earlier this year that would open the door to more abortion restrictions. They have to wait until 2023 to take the next step toward amending the state constitution.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter