Capital Clicks

Proposal would require two-thirds majority to pass tax increases in Iowa

By: - March 22, 2022 6:05 pm

Sen. Dan Dawson gives closing remarks on the 2022 tax bill. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Weeks after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a major tax cut into law, Iowa lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment to make it more difficult to undo those changes.

“Any changes we’ve made here in the last few years, it’s all for naught if a simple majority comes in down the road to raise taxes back up,” said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs.

Senate Study Bill 3064 would amend Iowa’s constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote for any bill to increase income, corporate or sales taxes at a state level.

Conservative lobbying groups praised the proposal.

“We expect Iowa’s poor, working families to live within their means,” said Victoria Sinclair, lobbyist for Iowans for Tax Relief. “If the Legislature can’t live within their means and decide they need to take more from Iowa’s taxpayers, then the threshold should be higher.”

Opponents of the proposal said the change would stifle future legislatures from making necessary changes — including potentially paring back this year’s tax law.

“It’s going to make the clean-up from this year all that much harder,” said Mike Owen, representing Common Good Iowa. “This legislature has put Iowa on a course for drastic cuts in revenue that are certain to affect public services down the road, long after many current legislators have left office.”

The subcommittee advanced the amendment. Dawson and Sen. Tim Goodwin, R-Burlington, voted in favor. Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, was opposed.

“What you’re doing with the constitutional amendment is (making) really significant changes this year to the tax code, then taking the door and locking it behind you,” Petersen said.

Lawmakers have advanced similar proposals in recent decades, but none successfully amended the constitution.

In the June 1999 election, ballots included a proposed constitutional amendment to require a three-fifths majority to pass a tax increase. A majority of Iowans, 52%, voted against the measure.

Dawson said a statewide vote may play out differently this time. He pointed to inflation and “what is going on in Washington D.C.” as reasons voters may be willing to consider the proposal.

“I think there’s certainly merit to this, to say ‘Hey, government shouldn’t go to the taxpayer first to fill their coffers,” he said. “‘Government needs to figure it out themselves.’”

 A constitutional amendment needs approval from two consecutive general assemblies before it goes on the ballot, meaning the earliest Iowans could vote on the measure is 2024.

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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.