Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House.
I want to take a moment to thank you all for the selflessness in which you serve Iowans. I know that this session it may have been especially difficult to be away from your families and lives, but you are doing the people’s work, and Iowans appreciate your commitment.
To all of the people who keep this chamber running, in particular, LSA and the chief clerk’s office, your knowledge and hard work is invaluable.
To all of the people who keep the building beautiful and welcoming to Iowans – thank you.
And a special thank you to our staff: Jeff, Lon, Jason, Amanda, Kristi, Lew, Louis, Brad, Dustin, Jill, Matt, Josie, Terri, Noreen and Tony.
To Minority Leader McCarthy and your staff, thank you for working with us when you were able.
When we started this session, were many new faces in the chamber. I think it’s safe to say on day 172 that you’re all veterans now. Your patience and perseverance has paid off. You know what they say; good things come to those who wait.
At the beginning of the year, House Republicans laid out an aggressive plan to create jobs, craft fiscally responsible budgets, reduce government burdens and regulations and give the taxpayers a seat at the table.
We wasted little time getting started. Our first bill was the Taxpayers First Act. This plan took input from Iowans and put their ideas into action, reducing state spending by over half a billion dollars over three years and would have set aside $383 million in a Tax Relief Fund.
Despite the Senate’s rejection of the Taxpayers First Act, we were successful in getting nearly every part of that initial bill written into other legislation, still accomplishing our goals. We knew it would be tough, but we didn’t walk away.
I am proud that we established the Taxpayers Trust Fund, which is a landmark achievement on behalf of the taxpayers of Iowa. When the State’s revenue exceeds expectations the priority will no longer be to use those funds to grow government. Instead, we will now make sure the money gets back into the pockets of the people who earned it.
If there was one thing that we knew Iowans wanted us to address this year, it was the economy. Too many Iowans are out of work and their government was only making the problem worse. But if you were expecting the House to pass some stimulus or cash-for-clunkers program, you weren’t paying attention. Iowans want government to get out of the way.
We hit the streets and gravel roads and set a goal of identifying and eliminating burdensome regulations. Led by the chair of our Rules Committee (thank you Rep. Pettengill), we went to all corners of Iowa, listening to their problems.
We heard from job creators, small business owners and every day Iowans who said the rules and regulations set by government were choking growth and inhibiting progress. We began to address these issues this session and will aggressively do so going forward.
When we convened in January, we faced a nearly billion dollar shortfall built into the budget. This fiscal problem was caused by past bad habits of spending more than the state takes in, using one-time dollars for ongoing expenses and borrowing away our future with increased debt. Addressing this was not going to be an easy task, changing the way government operates never is.
Our solution was to craft a sustainable budget; one that eliminated gimmicks and took an Iowa-commonsense approach to budgeting. It should come as no surprise that this was met with significant pushback and threats to shut down government just to protect the status quo. Through it all, we have stood by our promise and on our principles.
If we want to get serious about putting Iowans back to work, we need to start putting money back into the hands of Iowans and job creators which is why we passed broad-based tax reform that didn’t pick winners and losers.
I am disappointed that once again, the Legislature has failed to provide any REAL property tax reform for Iowans. With over 100,000 Iowans out of work, now was not the time to be timid. Property tax reform should benefit all property taxpayers.
Ask yourself this, if Iowa continues to have the second highest commercial property tax rate in the nation, can it also be the home of job growth? Are we sending a signal that employers should invest here?
We want to give businesses of ALL sizes the impetus to hire. It is unfortunate that we conclude this session with another missed opportunity to enact real property tax reform.
Over the coming weeks and months, pundits will want to conclude what this session was or was not. They will speculate on property taxes, government spending, job creation, divided government, and the length of the session.
Whatever the conjecture, the reality is this session was about courageously standing up for Iowans. Whether it was giving them smaller government, their money, or even just a seat at the table, Republicans spent 172 days focusing on, and putting Iowans, first.
I want to thank Governor Branstad for his tireless leadership this session. He and Lt. Governor Reynolds travelled the state talking to Iowans, sharing the message of smaller government and job creation.
Thank you to the members of this chamber and of my caucus, your support and advice is appreciated. To the leadership team, Jeff, Erik, Renee, Steve, Matt and Dave, thank you. You have each been a resource and inspiration when I needed you most.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your leadership and your friendship during this successful session.