Public praise and complaints about GOP tax plans in House and Senate

DES MOINES — Two forums held at the Iowa Capitol Tuesday afternoon have given business groups and advocates for outdoor recreation the opportunity to lobby for their preferred tax changes, but the hearings also highlighted the differences in the three plans Governor Kim Reynolds and her fellow Republicans in the House and Senate have unveiled. Americans for Prosperity state director Drew Klein was among the first to address Senators at a subcommittee hearing.

“No secret there are some competing interests. There are some competing bills,” Klein said. “We do know and have confidence that what you guys are going to come up with working across the rotunda and with the governor’s office is going to put us in a competitive position.”

Lobbyists from several business groups cheered the corporate income tax break in the Senate GOP’s plan. House Republicans didn’t include that in their plan. Dustin Miller of the Iowa Chamber Alliance urged Republicans working on the House bill to “keep an open mind.”

“We’re one of the highest states from the top line rate on the corporate side. That impacts our attraction for investment,” Miller said during the House subcommittee hearing. “When we’re trying to attract business and investment from other states, we’re not even on the playing field and we don’t know it with some site selectors.”

Among the three plans, Senate Republicans are the only ones to propose a sales tax maneuver that will finally put money in the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

“We believe that the trust is an immense opportunity to immediately invest in water quality, agricultural conservation, outdoor recreation, trails and the quality of life assets that make Iowa an attractive place to live and work,” said Anna Gray of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

Some people spoke at both hearings. Victoria Sinclair, a lobbyist for Iowans for Tax Relief, noted the House GOP’s plan mirrors the governor’s proposal.

“We applaud the governor’s leadership in rolling out a bold plan that significantly reduces income taxes for all Iowans,” Sinclair said at the House subcommittee hearing. “And we commend House leadership for including her individual income tax reduction proposal within this legislation.”

Sinclair told Senate Republicans their plan was “bold, yet thoughtful,” as she spoke at the Senate subcommittee hearing.

“This bill proposes the largest tax cut in Iowa history and it doesn’t stop there,” Sinclair said. “…It also provides the first mechanism, to our knowledge, for eliminating the individual income tax in Iowa.”

A few speakers questioned the tax-cutting goals Republicans are advancing. Mike Owen, deputy director of Common Good Iowa, said public services will be slashed if the tax cuts go into effect.

“These are the services that make Iowa a good place to live, work and run a business,” said Owen, who spoke at the Senate subcommittee hearing. “If we invest in things that restore opportunity and quality of life in this state, if we build on our strengths and stop tearing them down, we have a chance.”

Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference asked lawmakers to consider raising the earned income tax credit, to ease the tax burden for low income workers and he quoted remarks Pope Francis made Monday to Italian tax officials.

“The pope said taxation should always safeguard the dignity of the poor and the least who also risk being trodden underfoot by the powerful,” Chapman said.

Peter Hird of the Iowa Federation of Labor says union members share the same concerns the pope has about tax fairness.

“We want to make sure that working class Iowans are getting these tax breaks and not wealthy corporations and we just want to make sure that we’re helping people out along the way,” Hird said.