The Behn Report

Jerry Behn (R), Boone

~by State Senator Jerry Behn

Jan. 16, 2020

This was the first week of the 2020 legislative session. It is exciting to be back at the Capitol, and we are ready to get started on many of the issues we have heard about over the past several months.

Each year we listen to speeches from the Majority Leader, the Senate President and the Minority Leader on the first day. Then throughout the week we hear the Governor’s Condition of the State address, the Condition of the Judiciary, and the Condition of the Iowa National Guard.

On Tuesday we heard from Governor Reynolds about her plan and vision for Iowa, specifically regarding tax reform and parts of what her budget looks like, like the Invest in Iowa Act. Her speech had a lot of major topics in it, like child care, expanding the workforce and ensuring Iowa children are receiving the best education they can. We are looking forward to working with both Governor Reynolds and the House of Representatives on these important issues and working on a sustainable budget.

A big priority for us in the Senate is continuing to reduce the tax burden on working Iowans. We will also work on continuing education and the expanding the workforce to help fill the thousands of open jobs in our state.

As the legislative session continues and we start to take up these important issues, I urge you to contact me with comments, questions, and the issues important to you.

Continuing tax relief for Iowans –  Senate Republicans set course in 2017 to reduce the tax burden on hard-working Iowans. The reasoning was obvious, according to the Tax Foundation, Iowa’s tax climate ranked 42nd in the nation. We understand that those states experiencing the most significant economic growth have the lowest income tax rates in the nation.

Guided by our pro-growth agenda, we passed a tax bill that provided an average income tax reduction of 10 percent immediately and by 2023 the top tax rate will be reduced to 6.5 percent. Going into the 2020 legislative session, we are committed to keep lowering the tax burden on Iowans. We are hopeful Iowans will receive additional income tax reductions as a result of our work over the next 100 days.
Governor Reynolds announced her plan for tax relief this year. Iowa currently has nine tax brackets, with a top rate of 8.53 percent in tax year 2021. Under Governor Reynolds’ plan, she is proposing to raise the sales tax one percent, work off our earlier tax reduction success to further reduce taxes, and bring our top tax rate down to 5.5 percent by tax year 2023. The change would cut income tax by an additional 10 percent for many Iowans, with the lower-income Iowans receiving up to a 25 percent cut, according the governor.

We will be working in the weeks and months ahead to ensure a significant net tax reduction for Iowans.

Fully funding education – One of the first topics discussed at the beginning of every legislative session is the amount of funding for Iowa K-12 schools. Much of that discussion revolves around the undefined phrase “fully funding education.” However, no dollar amount defines that phrase.

The common-sense way to define this term is this: The state keeps the promises it made during the budgeting process in January for that fiscal year. Students, teacher, administrators, and property taxpayers all depend on the state fully funding the promises it makes.

Since taking over the majority in 2017, Senate Republicans have fully funded every dollar we have promised to K-12 education. Over the last three budgets, $263.75 million was promised to K-12 schools. Those schools received every last dollar, every promise was kept, and not a single cut has been made over the last three years. Additionally, millions of dollars have been allocated for concurrent enrollment and to address inequities in both per pupil and transportation funding.

In fact, the last time K-12 education was cut was when Chet Culver was governor and Democrats controlled both branches of the Iowa Legislature. Schools were promised $393.9 million over four years, only to have those promises underfunded by a total of $459 million. Not only were the promises of increased funding not kept, but education spending was actually cut by $65 million.

In the coming weeks expect to hear a lot of noise about cutting and fully funding education. However, one certainty will remain, Senate Republicans will continue to make reliable and sustainable promises to Iowa schools and those promises will be kept.

As always, I want to hear from you. My Senate number is 515-281-3371 and my home number is 515-432-7327 or write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319 or at my home address: 1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA 50036 or email me at jerry.behn [at] legis [dot] iowa [dot] gov.

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