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2021 Iowa Legislature Underway With Education, Taxation At Top Of GOP Agenda

Des Moines, Iowa — The 2020 Iowa legislative session began this Monday, with Republicans who control the debate agenda predicting significant action on education and taxation. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny says there’s no consensus yet, though.

(as said) “The tax conversation and tax changes don’t happen in a bill filed day one in the legislature, usually,” Whitver says. “What I know is as long as I’m majority leader and as long as we’re in the majority, we want to improve the tax climate in the state of Iowa.”

House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, says legislators will get the next detailed report on state tax revenue in March.

(as said) “We’re seeing higher than expected revenue growth,” Grassley says. “If we have those opportunities to return dollars back to the hard-working Iowans, we want to do that.”

House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City says tax cuts should be targeted to make things like housing and child care more affordable.

(as said) “If we’re going to talk tax cuts, let’s talk tax cuts for working Iowans,” Prichard says, “not just for those at the top.”

Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls (like “walls”) of Coralville says the legislature’s primary focus should be on the pandemic.

(as said) “This is the event that has turned all of our lives upside down,” Wahls says, “…so looking at things that’ll help our front-line health care workers, other essential workers, small businesses, community agencies like food banks. We know that food insecurity has tripled since the start of the pandemic.”

Last Thursday, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds hit pause again on her “Invest in Iowa” proposal to both lower income taxes and raise sales taxes, due to the pandemic. Republican legislators say their education plans will revolve around ensuring parental choice. Speaker Grassley says it was an issue in the November election, as some parents grew frustrated that their children were not back in the classroom full time.

(as said) “I think Iowans spoke loud and clear that that’s their expectation,” Grassley says, “and in fact I think it affected a lot of races.”

Both Grassley and Senator Whitver say everything is on the table when it comes to education policy, including giving parents state money to cover the costs of private school tuition.

(as said) “When you talk about parental choice, there’s a lot of different things that go into that…Can you transfer out of Des Moines Public Schools or not? Are your kids in five days a week or are they all virtual? It’s public-private,” Whitver says. “…Education is going to probably be the biggest conversation of this entire session.”

Democrats say spending state tax dollars at private schools diverts scarce resources at a time when Iowa’s public schools need more assistance.