He entered the Iowa legislature hoping to make an impact and represent the needs of his right-leaning district. Instead, freshman legislator Jake Chapman is frustrated by Republicans’ inability to accomplish their goals in the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate. As long as Democrats hold onto their narrow majority, conservative bills are bound for the dustbin.
“We had some good bills that unfortunately didn’t make it through funnel week and that’s a little frustrating,” said Chapman (R-Adel). “Iowans have elected me to represent them and unfortunately those ideals haven’t been represented, but we’re going to continue to fight and continue to do what Iowans what us to do down there.”
Jake Chapman, 28, is one of several young Republicans that have brought new energy into the legislature in recent years. He emerged victorious in a Republican primary last June, but did not have an opponent in the general election. Chapman’s senate district spans five counties, including parts of Polk, Dallas, and Cass, along with all of Adair and Guthrie. As a result, he represents a mix of urban and rural residents.
“It’s very diverse with a lot of different issues to deal with so, it’s been a little bit of a learning curve for me being able to represent both sets of constituents,” Chapman said.
Along with his legislative duties, Jake Chapman serves the chief operating officer for a family owned business, so issues like tax reform are very important to the state senator. Despite his frustrations with the legislative process, the Adel native and father of three also sees some benefits in the slow deliberations of the Iowa Senate.
“The Democrats drive the agenda, so most of the time it’s how can we make sure this doesn’t get done,” Chapman said. “There is some benefit to having a difficult process for bills to come forward. I think there is some benefit to that. If there wasn’t, I think Iowa would be in a much different situation.”
One particular item on the Democrats’ agenda that Chapman finds disturbing is their budget plan. The Senate Democrats have proposed spending $200 million more than what the state is projected to bring in this year. Their budget is also 10 percent increase over last year’s.
The Democrats argue that their budget plan only spends 94 percent of Iowa revenue. However, they factor in the state’s $800 million surplus into their calculations. If the Iowa Senate Democrats get their way, they will spend half of that surplus in one year on projects that would require ongoing revenue in the future.
“To me that is extremely disappointing,” Chapman said. “Those who will learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it. It was just three years ago under that Culver administration that they did exactly that. They were spending more than what they were taking in. We had a billion dollar spending gap and it resulted in a 10 percent across the board cut. And here we are three years later with them proposing the same sort of budget.”
Chapman and his Republican colleagues in the Iowa Senate believe they have a better idea: return the excess revenue to the people. They would prefer the money be returned as a tax credit. However, there are other avenues if the Democrats refuse.
“This is taxpayer money,” Chapman said. “This is not government’s money this is not our money. This is money that taxpayers paid into the system and so our number one priority would be to give that money back. I think we’re in a great position to be able to leverage that money and be able to reduce income tax, property tax.”
While bills that Republicans favor, like Voter ID and traffic camera bans, failed to make it through the funnel, Senator Chapman is hopeful that Republicans will be able to attach those bills as amendments onto other legislation so there is at least a chance to debate them on the floor.
If Chapman could pass one ideal piece of legislation this year, it would be the flat tax proposal that was approved by the Iowa House last week. That bill, which passed on a party-line vote, would create an optional 4.5 percent flat tax for Iowans. In the process, it creates a tax cut for almost 500,000 Iowans. The bill also returns the budget surplus to taxpayers in the form of a credit.
“I think putting more money back in Iowans hands improves the quality of life,” Chapman said. “It has a ripple effect, whether it’s healthcare, being able to afford the insurance or whatever it may be. I think it has a positive impact all the way around and would certainly help our economy here in Iowa.”
Photo by Chad Airhart
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