The Iowa House and Iowa Senate gaveled in on Monday morning to launch the 2018 session of the 87th General Assembly with Republican leaders focused on tax reform during their opening remarks.
Below are the transcripts of their remarks as prepared for delivery.
Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake):
Welcome back to the Iowa House!
It has been 262 days since we adjourned the 2017 session. Normally, that would sound like a long time, but today it sure feels short.
In those 262 days, we have done exactly what was intended of this citizen legislature. We went home to our families, we went to work and we spent time with our communities. Most importantly, we spent time listening.
I am so proud every time I talk with one of you or I pick up a newspaper and see the engagement you have with your communities. Countless miles, meetings, and conversations are what filled those 262 days.
So today, we call the Iowa House back to order and we bring with us the benefits of being home to live, work, and listen. We will do with that experience what I believe we do better than anyone else in the country, we will put it into action.
Last month, Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to the lowest it has been in 17 years, 2.9%! However, I know that behind that number are too many Iowan’s who lack the training or the experience for the high-skilled and high-wage careers that many employers are looking to fill right now.
This is about the essence of the American dream, upward mobility. We have so much talent in this state, we cannot let it slip away. We must connect today’s workforce with training and certification so they can achieve that dream… a career and security for their families.
We must work both in our classrooms and with employers so that our future workforce gets an effective education that prepares them for the careers and emerging industries that will drive our state forward.
I want Iowans to find their American dream right here at home and I am happy to work with Governor Reynolds on a plan of action that will focus on results that will benefit every Iowan and every community.
If Iowa is going to be a place that our children and grandchildren choose to stay, we must also offer them access to the affordable healthcare they need and the quality they deserve. For years, I have complained about burdensome federal regulations stripping us of our ability as a state to address our own needs.
With the collapse of the individual insurance market, we have seen the consequences of failed federal policies. I am tired of complaining, I am tired of waiting. It is time for us as a state to act.
Before long, Iowans will begin to see how federal tax reform benefits each of them and their families. Individual taxpayers in Iowa are estimated to save over $1.5 billion, and more money in Iowan’s pockets is a great thing.
Because of federal deductibility, federal tax cuts for Iowans could mean a higher state tax burden in future years. Those tax cuts were intended to remain with the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa. Let’s make sure that happens!
We have a huge opportunity to grow the state of Iowa with tax reform. We should be excited about this but we must also be pragmatic. It must be done in a way that benefits Iowa families while also protecting the sustainability of future budgets.
No single one of us can get anything done without working together and finding some level of consensus in this room. Do not let the days of this session slip away waiting for someone to reach out to work with you. Be the one who reaches out and inspires others to come together. Let there be many fingerprints on our work, and we will be more successful because of it.
Our ability to turn ideas into action is the hallmark of the Iowa House. Now I want us to get down to business, so maybe I can help by wrapping up this speech!
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get back to work!
Iowa House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights):
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House. It is my great honor to welcome you back to the Statehouse as we continue the historic work of the 87th General Assembly.
With the first day of each session comes excitement and anticipation. But, this year, it also comes with reflection as we remember two of our members whom we will greatly miss – Representative Greg Forristall and Representative Curt Hanson. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families and may we never forget their honorable service to our great state.
All of us here today, whether Republican or Democrat, return to do the people’s work and it is the service of Iowans that we must always keep in mind. This great institution is stronger and our government works better, when we are willing to talk to each other, listen to each other’s ideas and not merely dismiss them based on which letter follows their name on a ballot. I’m grateful for the many relationships I have developed on both sides of the aisle and working together on our shared interests.
It is a tremendous honor to lead this group of House Republicans. While pundits and prognosticators concern themselves with which direction the political winds may be blowing, those voices will do nothing to change our resolve. You are determined, committed, and principled leaders. There are voices out there that wish to stifle our every effort and take us back to the old ways of doing things – instead, you continue to work hard, find creative policy solutions, and be unafraid to challenge the status quo.
Last year, we made extraordinary accomplishments due to the opportunity entrusted to us by Iowans. House Republicans remain committed to charting a brighter course for the state of Iowa by focusing on innovative policy solutions that look ahead to the next generation.
We must continue to boldly lead and always challenge yesterday’s voices who seek to turn the calendar back. We will lead by looking ahead and always asking, “What’s next?”
Every year, House Republicans are dedicated to responsible stewardship of the hard-earned resources of Iowa taxpayers. We are again committed to sound budget practices that demonstrate fiscal restraint, safeguard the priority needs of Iowans, and protect Iowa taxpayers.
Along with our commitment to strong budget leadership, we look forward to a broad conversation about reforming Iowa’s tax code to make the system fairer, simpler, and more competitive. House Republicans would rather grow our economy than grow our government. Putting more dollars back into the pockets of Iowans will unleash our economy, expand our businesses, and empower our families.
As I have traveled the state meeting business and community leaders I often hear about challenges they face in recruiting and hiring skilled employees. House Republicans are excited to work on ideas to further develop Iowa’s workforce. Not only can this help Iowa businesses grow, but these efforts will help individual Iowans find new and better careers. The needs of Iowa’s economy are ever-changing, and we must continue to help prepare all Iowans for greater prosperity in a twenty-first century economy.
Each of us makes a sacrifice to be here; but, it is important to reflect on the sacrifices each of our families make, and often, their sacrifice is far greater than ours. Without their patience and support nothing I’ve accomplished here would have been possible.
To close, my prayer today is that God will continue to bless each one of us, the people we represent, and the great State of Iowa.
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Iowa Senate President Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny):
Good morning! Majority Leader Dix, Minority Leader Petersen, Senators, staff, family and friends welcome to the Iowa Senate as we begin the 2018 Legislative Session of the 87th General Assembly. Colleagues, thank you again for the honor to serve as president of the Iowa Senate!
The first day of the legislative session is one of my favorites as a legislator. Optimism runs high, and there are smiles and laughter heard throughout the Chamber as we reconnect with friends and colleagues.
More importantly, 50 senators unite in this Chamber with promising new ideas on how we will shape the future of Iowa. I have never been more optimistic about what lies ahead for our state. People around the country are taking notice of Iowa.
In just the last year, Iowa has been recognized for our great job climate – being named the BEST state in the country for the middle class. Our schools have also been recognized as we were named the #1 state in America in high school graduation rates and #4 in increased education funding. Our state has been recognized as the 3rd best managed state in America. There are so many reasons to be excited about the future. I have no doubt that our best days lie ahead of us!
As we embark on the 2018 session, I look forward to building on what many have said was the most historic session this body has ever seen. I am proud this legislature has maintained a great vision for the future, working on issues which will have a profound impact on our state for years to come.
One of my personal highlights last year was bringing my children to spend a day at the Capitol.
They joined us in the pledge of allegiance, watched debate, and enjoyed meeting many of you. I know they had a blast as they often ask when they can come back to visit this session.
However, as much fun as they had and the lessons they took away from the Capitol, it pales in comparison to what I gained from it. When things get hectic at the Capitol, big picture thinking can become blurred.
It is imperative we do not lose sight of why we are here.
My children remind me why I serve; and, I am guessing it is the same reason all of you serve.
We inherited a great state from our parents. It is our job to ensure our kids and our grandkids inherit an even better state from us. We must work diligently on behalf of the next generation so they have opportunities and experiences even greater than our own.
We want all Iowans to live in safe communities. Each one of us strives for Iowa children to receive a world class education and prepare them for work in a global economy. We want our young adults to stay in Iowa – not only for our great career opportunities, but for our outstanding quality of life. And just as important, we want our retirees to stay in Iowa to be close to their families and remain active members in their communities.
While my optimism for our future is great, the challenges of today still exist.
We need to work together to ensure Iowans have access to affordable healthcare, enhance our mental health system, improve our water quality, develop a skilled workforce and continue to revitalize rural Iowa.
In order to accomplish these goals and fund any initiatives, we must always continue to strive for growth in the state of Iowa. This requires more than reducing regulations or adjusting the language in the Iowa Code. It is being open-minded to bold ideas; and having the courage to lead to make that vision a reality.
Two courageous leaders of this nation earned the respect of their fellow Americans during their presidency – John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Both were visionaries, who shared a common belief that growth resulted from reducing taxes.
I share this belief and challenge the body to act bold in passing tax reform in the state of Iowa for the first time in over 20 years!
The question we must ask ourselves is do we want to succeed and remain in the top run states in the nation, or be complacent and let down the three million Iowans who are looking to us to lead?
We have a choice on which path we forge: One that moves us forward and focuses on economic growth and security for our future generations, or the other which takes us a step backward – slowing economic prosperity and progress.
Progress to me is measurable: low unemployment rates, job creation, revenue growth, more disposable income and lower tax rates. I am confident we all want to see this kind of progress for Iowa, and this can be achieved if we have the courage to act boldly.
Allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money is not a new idea. JFK discussed this decades before I was even born. He said, “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now … Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.”
Reagan spent his two terms in the White House also fighting to ease the tax burden on hard-working Americans. “Death and taxes may be inevitable,” Reagan said, “but unjust taxes are not.”
Like Kennedy and Reagan, let us choose a path of growth and prosperity. Let’s continue to look beyond the next election, and look to the next generation as we ensure the 2018 session is even more historic than 2017.
Thank you and welcome back.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock):
For years, Senate Republicans had been calling for change in the Iowa Senate, and for legislation and reforms to improve career opportunities for Iowans and create an environment for stronger economic growth.
The people of Iowa responded, and we were given the chance to lead, a chance to show our citizens we are more than just talking the talk. We’re here to walk the walk. Or, as many of you remember, we’re here to kick the door in.
And we kept our promises.
One year ago, we started our journey. We passed legislation on the Second Amendment and voter ID, a joint resolution to let the citizens of Iowa vote on putting a 99 percent expenditure limit amendment in the state’s constitution, changes to reward our state’s best teachers, and give our school districts more control and flexibility. We passed legislation reducing the regulatory burden on Iowa’s job creators and eliminated hurdles to growth for other industries, improving career opportunities for every Iowan while ensuring our state remains a beacon of enterprise and ingenuity.
Here we are today, ready to write chapter two.
Our state is full of motivated, ambitious and hard-working individuals – everyday Iowans who get up before the sun rises and go to bed long after the sun goes down. They are single parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet and still find the time to help their kids with homework. They are students who work hard to learn a trade so they can find a stable career, start a family, buy a house, and join Iowa’s healthy and growing middle class. They are aspiring small business-owners who are working to turn a hobby into something a little bigger.
Our goal is simple. We want our local businesses – our coffee shops, tire stores, and family diners – to grow and prosper, our communities to grow and thrive, and our children to grow up prepared to tackle the world. We want to relieve the tax burden on the people who make our state what it is, and ensure that every Iowan has the opportunity to thrive here at home.
The objective has always been the same – for more money to be kept by those who earned it.
Tax relief is about emboldening our middle class and encouraging our citizens to invest in themselves, their local businesses, and our state. It is about giving Iowans a little more cushion in their family budget, a little extra to put towards their student loans, or a little more towards that big family vacation. It is about growth and opportunity.
As I’ve stated before, our priorities are no different than they have been in the past. We were sent here to do a job – we were elected to balance the state’s budget, foster an environment of job growth and prosperity, and enact policies that will allow teachers to give our children the education they deserve.
But growth and opportunity don’t just apply to our state’s families. We are also giving our schools and school districts the tools and control to adapt, to innovate, and to spend taxpayer dollars doing what’s right for the students in their community.
While we will again tackle a difficult budget, we will keep our promises to create a better environment for job growth in our state, provide our children with an education that ensures competitiveness both at home and abroad, and ensure everyday, hard-working Iowans get to keep more money in their pocket.
In 2017 our agenda was big and bold. In 2018, Senate Republicans will move an agenda that will again be big and bold because this state deserves big and bold. The changes we make will move our state forward in a positive direction, felt for many generations to come.
The success of our time here should not be measured in how many dollars were spent, or how many dollars saved. Success is determined by how many opportunities that can be created, businesses that can start, and families that stay here in Iowa and continue to call it home for generations to come.
Let’s make it happen!