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Iowa House Speaker says income tax cuts are top priority for 2022 session

Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, is elected the new Speaker of the House on the opening day of the 2020 Iowa legislative session. 1/13/2020 Photo by John Pemble
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, says his number one priority for the upcoming legislative session is cutting income taxes.

The top Republican in the Iowa House of Representatives says his number one priority for the upcoming legislative session is cutting income taxes.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said Monday in an interview with IPR that he wants to get money back to Iowa taxpayers “as quickly as possible.”

He said Iowa’s more than $1 billion surplus last fiscal year and another big surplus expected this year leave room for tax cuts without having to cut funding for services.

“It was an overpayment,” Grassley said. “We want to get that money back into the economy. We know that Iowans are facing increased costs on a daily basis. Whatever the government can do to get that back would be helpful, I’m sure.”

Grassley said House Republicans want to be realistic about any tax cuts and ensure they’re “fiscally sound.”

“And I don’t think anyone has settled on, ‘Hey, this will be the plan,’” he said. “But I think what we want to be able to do is continue to show that we’re making progress on Iowa’s income tax rates.”

Senate Republicans have called for major cutswith the goal of eliminating the income tax.

Grassley said they’re not on the same page in terms of the details of potential tax cuts, but they have the same end goal.

Republican lawmakers passed income tax cuts earlier this year, but they don’t take effect until 2023. It took several weeks for the House and Senate GOP to agree to that tax plan.

Democratic leaders have saidcuts should be targeted to middle and low income Iowans, and that eliminating the income tax would be a "catastrophe" for the state. Personal income tax revenue funds nearly half of the state budget.

Democrats have also pointed out that the recent rapid growth in state revenue happened because of the billions of dollars Iowa got from the federal government as part of pandemic relief programs. A state financial expert credited federal stimulus payments and pent-up consumer demand for the big jump in state sales tax revenue.

Grassley said House Republicans also plan to work on workforce, child care and housing issues in the next legislative session that begins Jan. 10.

Will lawmakers take more action to limit workplace vaccine mandates?

Grassley did not commit Monday to passing a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring vaccines.

TheIowa Capital Dispatch reported a group of House Republicans has drafted a bill to ban employer vaccine mandates.

Asked if that bill has enough support to pass, Grassley said there’s a lot of uncertainty with ongoing court cases against federal workplace vaccine mandates.

“So as far as a bill that would completely ban it, again, some of that is—see how that plays out,” Grassley said. “But I always remind everyone with this topic, we did take some significant action to make sure we could provide that level of support for Iowans who may be wanting to make an alternative choice.”

About two months ago, the legislature passed a new law that expanded the ability for workers to refuse COVID-19 vaccines. And some Iowans who were still fired have claimed unemployment benefits under the new law. Some Republican lawmakers and groups that oppose vaccines said the law didn’t go far enough.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has joined legal challenges of all three federal vaccine mandates. Two are currently blocked by courts.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter