The 2018 session of the Iowa Legislature has begun. This year the session is scheduled to last 100 days. This would have us finishing on April 17, but our goal is to get to work and end session in ninety days, finishing April 7.
Our first order of business will be to address a budget shortfall due to revenues coming in less than forecast. We need to cut at least $35 million in the current budget in order to align revenues and expenses. I believe it would be wise to de-appropriate more than that to give ourselves some cushion in the event revenues decline further.
The largest policy issue we will face this year is expected to be tax reform. After the major changes enacted in federal tax code made by Congress, it is important Iowa update our tax laws to ensure there are no unintended consequences that lead to individuals paying higher taxes after a tax cut bill. Senate Republicans are working on a plan to reduce rates and the number of brackets of our personal income tax. We are working to make Section 179 expensing permanent. We are looking at removing federal deductibility in exchange for reducing tax rates even more. This is something I have historically opposed. I’d like to hear input from back home on this issue.
The first week is also when we listen to the governor’s Condition of the State address. I believe Gov. Kim Reynolds hit it out of the park. She outlined the successes we have enjoyed and the challenges we face. Iowa is rated the third best run state, is first in graduation rates, and best place to live as a middle class family. I was relieved when she agreed that mistakes have been made in regards to the Medicaid Modernization and that we need to find solutions in order to better serve those in these programs. She outlined problems in our mental health system that we need to deal with. I believe she is going to be a great governor, and look forward to working with her. We were both first elected to the Legislature in 2008, so we have a good relationship based on shared experience here in Des Moines.
The week also saw the annual address from the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court and General Tim Orr, reporting on the Condition of the Iowa National Guard. His speech was notable in that most of the speech was focused on Guard activities in the state. For years he has reported on the hundreds of Iowans deployed overseas to combat zones. We still have soldiers and airmen and women deployed, but they are numbered in the dozens now, not hundreds. It was notable that Camp Dodge is the third busiest National Guard post in the country. The changes made since I served in Charlie Company in Denison are amazing.
As we get back in the habit of driving to the Capitol each day, I am reminded of how grateful I am to serve western Iowa as their Senator. The work we do now will benefit Iowa for years and even a generation to come, and I am thankful they allow me to be a part of it.