Republicans tout victories as 2022 legislative session begins

GOP leaders pledge tax cuts and solutions to the workforce shortage

By: - January 10, 2022 11:57 am

The Iowa House of Representatives convened on Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Republican leaders touted their 2021 legislative successes as they gaveled in Monday for the 2022 legislative session. They pointed repeatedly to the state’s $1.2 billion surplus as evidence of sound governing – and the basis for another round of tax cuts. 

“The state is taking in more money, more tax money, than it needs, and Iowans deserve to have that money back,” House Speaker Pat Grassley said.

Grassley, R-New Hartford, did not provide specifics of the House’s tax plan, but one Senate Republican leader set a clear goal: completely removing Iowa’s income tax.

“Let’s keep our eyes set on the total elimination of income tax,” Senate President Jake Chapman said in his opening speech. “Now is the time for action… We cannot allow another year to go by sitting on the sidelines while other states are aggressively reducing taxes.”

Chapman, R-Adel, acknowledged at a GOP breakfast that total elimination was the goal, even if “that may not be possible the very first year.”

Republicans hold the trifecta: the majority in both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

Beyond tax cuts, Grassley focused on Iowa’s workforce shortage, advocating for a “holistic approach” that includes increased access to child care. He also promised to “hold the line and protect the freedoms of Iowans” during President Joe Biden’s tenure.

“We’ve already seen the lengths this president’s administration is willing to go to infringe on the rights of individual Iowans, parents and businesses.” Grassley said. “We cannot let that happen here in Iowa. We must push back.”

House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl echoed Grassley, telling lawmakers they should focus on policies to make Iowans more free.

“We have to let them make the choices that’s right for them and their families as we move through this pandemic, and as they live their everyday life, just trying to hold on to the American dream,” Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said.

In the Senate, Chapman focused on inappropriate books in schools – an issue he raised at school board meetings last year.

“We have some teachers who are disguising sexually obscene material as designed subject matter and profess it as artistic and literary in value,” he said. “The literature being pushed on our students should disturb all of us.”

Chapman also said the Senate was ready to “take whatever steps necessary to defend the dignity of life” as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case with the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Republicans run victory lap following 2021 session

Republican leaders spoke ahead of the legislative session at a GOP breakfast. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Before heading to the Capitol, Republican legislators and donors gathered at the downtown Hilton for a bacon and eggs breakfast. Party leaders celebrated accomplishments from the 2021 legislative session. 

“For five years, we have been kicking ass with this trifecta,” Windschitl said.

Republicans highlighted legislation on gun rights, tax cuts, and returning children to in-person school. They also praised the party’s wins on K-12 education, an election reform bill and the state’s record-high surplus. 

“When Republicans in Iowa tell you we’re going to do something, we go to the Capitol and we get it done,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said.

That record will serve the party well in elections, leaders said. Grassley pointed to Republican victories in 2021 special elections, including a flipped seat in Newton.

“We know that Iowans have our back the way that we have their back,” Grassley said.

Democrats respond: ‘Iowa is on the wrong track’

Democrats focused their opening remarks on the workforce shortage, arguing the crisis is partially the result of Republican policies over the past five years.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst addresses the House floor. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

“Republicans want to double down on the same policies that have already brought devastating consequences to Iowa,” said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls. “The facts are clear: Iowa is on the wrong track.”

Wahls, D-Coralville, said Republicans should “stop pouring gasoline on the divisive culture war” and instead invest more state funds into public schools, career training, affordable housing and child care. He also advocated for “comprehensive tax reform.”

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst said focusing primarily on lowering or eliminating the income tax would be insufficient, calling it a “budget-busting move that ignores the underlying causes of the workforce crisis.” She argued that workers will be more drawn to an Iowa with well-funded schools, affordable health care and welcoming social policies.

Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, also raised the issue of misinformation. 

“Iowans deserve to know the decisions we make this session are grounded in reality, not internet conspiracy theories,” she said. “We must base policy on facts, not Facebook.”

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.