HIAWATHA – It was one of the most bipartisan political events you will ever see. Iowa’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor shared the limelight with their political arch-nemesis, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat. Gronstal and Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen were allowed to speak at the event.
Around 15 other legislators from both sides of the aisle were also on hand, including Republican Senate Leader Bill Dix and Tyler Olson, who was chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party until resigning on Tuesday to prepare for a possible gubernatorial run against Branstad. The Republican and Democrat lawmakers gathered behind Governor Branstad as he signed Senate File 295 into law. The bill provides Iowans with the largest tax cut in state history.
“It’s a great day,” Branstad said. “It’s been a long time in coming, but it shows that patience and perseverance and bipartisan cooperation can pay off in a significant way for all the people of Iowa. So, I’m honored and proud to have the opportunity to sign it.”
Tempers flared at times during the 2014 Iowa legislative session. However, in the end, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass significant legislation to reform property taxes, education and healthcare.
“While other states and even Washington, D.C., allow those political differences to divide and create a partisan gulf that cannot be navigated, that simply is not the case right here in Iowa,” said Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. “Instead, we are a state that asks what is possible, what is needed and what is the best for Iowans.”
Hawkeye Ready-Mix in Hiawatha hosted the signing ceremony. That site was noteworthy because it is in the home district of Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, who played a key role in the passage of the bill.
“I think it’s very significant,” Paulsen told TheIowaRepublican.com. “It’s the largest tax cut in the history of Iowa. House Republicans had laid out that it should include all classifications of property, it needs to significant and it needs to be predictable. It conforms to all of those.”
The bill provides permanent tax relief on every class of property, totaling an estimated $4.4 billion. Agriculture and residential property tax owners will save an estimated $500 million dollars over the next 10 years. The bill also includes nearly $90 million in annual income tax relief. Some of that relief will come in the form of a tax credit of around $60 for most taxpayers.
The bill also includes specific tax relief that both political parties had championed for the past few years. Particularly, Democrats were pleased with the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which will assist lower income Iowans. Senator Gronstal referred to the bill as “landmark legislation” that is good for every employer in the state of Iowa.
“The other piece that’s in there that was particularly important to House Republicans was a Taxpayer Trust Fund piece, where we now have a permanent mechanism of putting money into the trust fund,” Speaker Paulsen said. “We also have a permanent mechanism to return that to the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa. So, I’m also excited about that. When they’ve made an overpayment, we’ve got an mechanism to send it back and it happens automatically.”
There has been some grumbling among some city leaders that the property tax relief will mean less revenue for local governments. Governor Branstad brushed aside those criticisms, noting that the bill does not cut funding.
“I feel very confident that revenue to local governments will continue to grow, not as fast as it would have if we hadn’t provided this property tax relief,” Branstad said. “I think local governments are adequately protected in this legislation. I think it is a very good balance.”
Branstad also noted that smaller businesses and lower income Iowans receive the most tax relief from this legislation, but will also send a message that Iowa is “open for business”.
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