The 2020 legislative session began last Monday. The first week is full of speeches and introductions of new department heads. There is much enthusiasm for moving Iowa forward.
On Tuesday, Governor Reynolds spoke of her vision for Iowa and how she hopes the legislature will respond. We got our first look at her budget goals and priorities like tax reform, increased flood relief and expanding our workforce. One thing that I noted was that the governor had many things on her agenda. When our state is struggling, the governor’s speech will usually focus just on a couple of big issues. The many projects the governor addressed tell me the state is functioning in a healthy way and able to look at smaller items.
The governor’s budget spends only 95% of our projected revenues for the year. The law allows us to spend up to 99% of revenue, but I appreciate the governor’s cautious approach when we are only halfway through our fiscal year.
In 2017 Republicans set out to reduce the tax burden on Iowans. We passed a bill that provided an average income tax reduction of 10% and that will increase by 2023. The result of those cuts is the healthy economy that has provided an increase in state revenue. The Governor proposed a 1% increase in sales tax and reducing our income tax by another 10%. The legislature will be considering those ideas. In 2020, Senate Republicans are committed to ensuring a significant tax reduction for Iowans.
School funding for K-12 is one of the first issues we deal with every year. We are constantly hearing requests to fully fund education, but no one knows what “fully funded” is. Over the last three years the legislature has provided a $263.75 million increase to K-12 schools. That is every penny that we promised. That does not include millions of dollars allocated to address inequities in per pupil funding and transportation costs. In the past, Democrats promised much larger increases, only to have to take back those increases later, so that after four years Democrat control education spending was actually cut $65 million.
We started the subcommittee process Thursday and passed a resolution stating that there is no right to abortion in our Iowa Constitution. SJR 21 does not abolish abortion, it just sends a clear message to the court that the Iowa Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. In 2018, unelected judges invented that fundamental right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. This constitutional amendment must be passed by both chambers, then go through the process again after there has been an election and then come before the people for a vote. It is a long and difficult process, but it should be difficult to amend our constitution.
Finally, I was again assigned to chair the subcommittee for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This Act would prohibit the government from interfering with a person’s free exercise of religion. I agree with US Attorney General William Barr who said, “Today, we are not experiencing a problem with religion being pushed on others, but with irreligion and secular ideas being pushed on people of faith.” I will continue to seek ways to keep the government from telling us how to think.