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Column: Republicans’ tax policy debates among unresolved legislative issues
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Column: Republicans’ tax policy debates among unresolved legislative issues

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Unified control of state government does not necessarily equate to universal agreement on all issues.

Case in point: the 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature.

State lawmakers are working to wrap up this year’s session --- many of the biggest policy debates have been completed, and what remains largely focuses on the next state budget.

But while most of legislators’ work for the session has been completed, what little work remains appears to be presenting a large hurdle to adjournment, despite the fact that Republicans have complete control over the agenda.

Tax policy, in particular, seems to be blocking the exits out of the Iowa Capitol. Myriad proposals are being considered, and Republican majorities in the Senate and House have not yet been able to agree on which to approve and send to the desk of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Reynolds and Senate Republicans want to accelerate state income tax cuts that were passed in 2018 but included so-called triggers: mechanisms that stopped the tax cuts from going into effect until the state revenue grew at a certain rate. Reynolds and Senate Republicans want to eliminate those guardrails and enact those income tax cuts.

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House Republicans have taken a more cautious approach with the triggers. House Speaker Pat Grassley has said they want to be careful that any tax reduction does not cause an issue whereby in the coming years state agencies or programs face defunding because of a reduced state budget.

Senate Republicans also have approved a proposal that would shift funding for mental health care from local property taxes to the state budget. Once again, House Republicans have taken a more cautious approach, saying that proposal first must include a broader debate about what services would be required and other issues not necessarily related to just the dollars. Grassley has all but ruled out House approval of this proposal this session.

So despite Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate plus a Republican in the governor’s office, plenty of debates between those three entities remain unsettled.

There is no official deadline for Iowa state lawmakers to complete their annual work. The dangled carrot is the expiration of the daily stipend legislators receive for travel, meals and lodging. That expires on the 110th day of the session, which this year falls on Friday, April 30.

Rep. Latham recognizes Fettkether, Hahn as 'north central Iowa heroes'

It seems unlikely this year’s group will be done with their work by that date. How long it takes beyond the end of the month depends on how quickly the separate groups can come to agreement on those remaining issues.

We often think of political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, as monoliths. If nothing else, the 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature shows that’s not always the case, and that unity does not necessarily mean unanimity.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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