Below are the opening day remarks from Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver as prepared for delivery:
Good morning Madame President and colleagues of the Senate,
I’d like to take a moment now to mention the tragedy in Perry last week. It is impossible to find words to appropriately convey the sorrow and the sympathy we have to the victims of the shooting, but the people of Perry should know we share in their grief and support them at this time.
Good men and women in Perry and surrounding communities did many good things to prevent this tragedy from being worse.
Law enforcement response time was 7 minutes. When they arrived, they immediately contained the threat, protected students, and quickly determined no additional threats existed. Emergency health care professionals also responded quickly, cared for those injured in the attack, and took them to the hospital.
According to news reports, the principal of Perry High School approached the shooter and put himself in extraordinary danger to protect the lives of students in his school. It is a remarkable demonstration of courage and self-sacrifice. Being a servant leader is easy to talk about, but in moments like these it is hard to do. It shows how leaders act in times of crisis. It shows how Iowans act to protect and defend each other.
Thank you to law enforcement, health care providers, and school leaders for all their work to defend Perry students. They are in our prayers as they move forward from the evil perpetrated in their community last week.
While we cannot legislate away evil and get rid of all the bad things in the world, we will keep our thoughts and prayers with Perry as we move forward to put in place policies to help make our state better and stronger.
Life is full of competition. It’s basketball and wrestling season and teams from elementary school to college are competing against each other, winning, losing, and improving. Businesses across Iowa are competing with each other for customers and market share, making their products better and their prices more economical. Competition spurs innovation, benefits consumers, and has been a key driver of the American economy, which has improved the lives of its people more than any country in history.
Just like sports teams and small businesses, states are increasingly competing for jobs, investments, and people with other states. For a few moments, I’d like to compare the Iowa plan with the agendas of our neighbors to the north and east.
Last month the REC evaluated Iowa’s economic status and the condition of the state budget and determined our state was experiencing organic economic growth. This growth is leading to revenues higher than expected, even with the largest income tax cut in Iowa history, the elimination of the tax on retirement income, the phasing out of the inheritance tax and a reduction in the income tax on Iowa businesses.
The Senate has consistently demonstrated fiscal responsibility to ensure these tax cuts are sustainable. As a dad with three kids at home, I know how hard it is to be consistent. So, I applaud the members in this chamber who, year after year, do the hard work it takes to support conservative budgets. We provided reasonable increases to public safety, education, and health care, while at the same time preserving the interest of the taxpayer and improving our state’s competitiveness.
One of our focuses as Senate Republicans is competitiveness. We want to improve Iowa’s competitiveness with the states around us, and make our state the best to live, work, and raise a family. We want Iowa to be at the top of the list for people looking for careers, the top of the list for families looking to settle down and build a home, the top of the list for employers looking to grow and expand, and the top of the list for an educated and skilled workforce.
While Iowa has passed measured increases in state spending, our neighbors to the north have struggled quite a bit with that concept. Minnesota Democrats have their own trifecta and they used it to grow their budget by 38 percent. But a 38 percent budget increase wasn’t enough for Minnesota liberals. They passed a billion-dollar bonding package. Then, they signed into law $2.2 billion in additional tax increases, even with historic surpluses in the state.
The contrast between the positive news from the Iowa revenue projections and Minnesota’s is clear. Iowa is projected to have a surplus of roughly $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2025, while Minnesota’s revenue estimating panel projected a $2.3 billion deficit in 2025.
So much rhetoric has been spilled in this building accusing Republicans of turning Iowa into the next Kansas. I think the much bigger and much more real danger for states is becoming the next Minnesota. A state where, in the span of two years, big spending legislators and governor turned a record surplus into a projected deficit. Overspending leads to higher taxes, broken promises, and fewer opportunities.
Last year they provided taxpayer-subsidized health care to illegal immigrants, and they gave them free college tuition. Instead of putting more resources towards police officers, they funded something called “violence interrupters.” Yeah, I don’t know what it means either.
The list of bad policies from Minnesota doesn’t stop there, but for the moment we will turn our attention to our neighbors to the east.
Many stories have been published about how Illinois struggles to keep its people safe. They are the first state to eliminate cash bail. They have a large sanctuary city and are enduring the incentives it creates for trafficking, the flow of fentanyl, and organized crime. It should come as no surprise when major companies from Illinois make high profile departures to other states, they often cite the significant rise in crime. They tolerated high taxes and a dysfunctional state government for years but when their employees were no longer safe, it was the final straw for them.
In Iowa we chose a different path. We have very clearly declared support for law enforcement, providing them legal protections and steady increases in funding. The state has cracked down on the serious problem of illegal immigration because we know it is a fundamental task of government to keep its people safe.
Last year was a historic year for parents and students in Iowa. We passed a parents bill of rights, putting into law the Iong-standing concept that parents have the final say in the education of their children and gave all parents a choice in the education of their children.
In Illinois, they killed a scholarship program for lower income students, guaranteeing school choice only for the wealthy, despite more than 20,000 Illinois kids on the waiting list for those scholarships.
After passing school choice for Iowans, we saw thousands of parents sign up for education savings accounts to help put their child in a school that will help them be successful. While we had estimated how many would apply for this program, thousands more did. That response tells me, Iowans want choice, they want freedom, and they want to do what is best for their children.
The point of these comparisons is to show the example we are setting with our pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-family policies. The policies we are enacting give families, job creators, and small businesses across the country a place to grow and succeed. The message to them is, “Iowa is the place for you.”
We’ve seen results from many of the policies we’ve enacted. Iowa is the number one state to retire. We moved up from being 46th in the country for our tax climate in 2017 to 33rd due to our work on lowering rates and simplifying the tax code, and our flat tax hasn’t even gone into effect yet. Our state has been rated as the number one state for lowest housing costs and the state with the second lowest health care costs in the nation.
The positive news isn’t just limited to headlines and rankings by national outlets. For decades Iowa’s population has been stagnant at about 3 million people. For decades, Iowa has had high tax rates and largely done business the same way. Seven years ago we started down a different path. We promised to control spending, reduce needless regulations, and open the door to new career opportunities. And we are seeing it happening. Americans are fleeing high tax, high crime, big spending states and relocating to states with low taxes and more opportunity. Iowa has been adding population, while migration out of states like California and Illinois is high.
This legislative session, we are going to stay on this path forward, making Iowa a model for other states. We will expedite the tax cuts so Iowans keep more of their money sooner. We will condense the number of income tax brackets making taxes simpler and fairer. And we will responsibly manage our budget to focus on the necessities and maintain the principle of putting the taxpayer first, not the government. We will continue to pursue reforms by reviewing the hundreds of boards and commissions populating state government. The goal is to make government more efficient and help Iowans get to work faster.
In one sentence, here’s the plan: cut taxes, control spending, reform government, and let Iowans be great.
Let’s get to work.