A sincere thank you to the members of the eighty-fifth general assembly, and in particular, House Republicans – I appreciate the hard work, commitment and honest debates we had at the state capitol this year. Thanks also to your families who deal with hectic schedules and our absences all so we can serve the good people of this state.
Thank you specifically to my wife, Cathy, and our children for your continued support, understanding and sharing in the sacrifice of our time together.
I want to thank a great leadership team that I am honored to work with – Reps. Windschitl, Hagenow, Rogers, Smith and Fry – I appreciate your leadership and dedication to the Republican caucus. To Speaker Pro Tem Steve Olson, thanks for your input, advice and the guidance you provide.
Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer – I appreciate, and House Republicans value, the work that you do. Your service and vision are vital to our efforts and have not only made our caucus more determined, but made the state better.
I’d also like to recognize Leader McCarthy and the minority party. Thank you for your efforts this year and for continuing to work in a bipartisan manner when you could and keeping your opposition civil when you could not.
Once again, thank you to the leadership staff: Doug, Terri, Josie, Angie, and Tony. And, in my opinion, the best caucus staff in the building – the House Republican Caucus staff: Jeff, Lew, Brad, Jason, Kristi, Carrie, Colin, Amanda, Louis and Dustin. Thank you for your hard work and the timely and reliable information you provide year in and year out.
Chief Clerk Boal, thank you to you and your staff, the work you all do right here in front me and behind the scenes make this chamber operate efficiently.
A special thanks to LSA for all of your hard work, much of what you do is not seen but it does not go unnoticed.
I also want to recognize and thank the gentleman to my right, the Speaker’s page, Keith Paulsen. Keith and I go way back. Thanks for taking care of me this year, Keith. Having you by my side these few months has made this one of the most special and memorable sessions I’ve had serving in the legislature.
And finally, a special thank you to Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and their team for their resolve and unwavering leadership.
At the start of the 2013 session, I outlined an action plan to promote a strong Iowa – one that encompasses a strong economy, strong budget leadership and strong schools and communities. As we close the session, I believe we have fulfilled this commitment to Iowans.
Iowa has the third highest commercial property taxes and the 16th highest residential property taxes in the nation. I pointed out at the beginning of session if nothing was done to address this problem, the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa were staring down the barrel of a $2.6 billion property tax increase over the next 10 years, with the majority of that falling to homeowners. Homeowners have been and would continue to be shouldering much of the burden as the rollback turns into the roll up.
Iowans have been very clear that they want property tax reform and relief and we were able to deliver for them in a way that has never been done before. For over a decade, the legislature has wrestled with this issue without success.
We passed bipartisan tax relief and reform that:
- Includes property tax relief for all classifications of property.
- Is meaningful, inclusive and reliable reform so taxpayers can count on relief from year to year.
- Ensures residential taxpayers receive as much relief as commercial taxpayers.
- Limits assessment growth from 4 percent to 3 percent on ag and residential taxpayers.
- Includes a 10 percent rollback on taxable value for commercial and industrial property.
- Is $560 million in property tax relief, once fully implemented.
- Additionally, this bill enacts a permanent mechanism for the taxpayer trust fund tax credit, giving any overpayment back to taxpayers.
This absolutely will make a difference for every Iowan.
We also fulfilled our commitment to provide strong budget leadership. Three years ago, Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall, behaving much like they do in Washington, D.C. This was unacceptable and Iowans demanded a change. In response, House Republicans outlined budgeting principles that have guided our decisions for the last three sessions. They are:
- Aligning ongoing spending with ongoing revenue.
- Resisting spending one-time money on ongoing expenses.
- Preventing the intentional underfunding of entitlement programs.
- Returning unused tax dollars to Iowa taxpayers.
The bipartisan budget passed this session results in three percent growth over fiscal year 2013 and spends merely 88 percent of what the state is allowed to spend. Culture change in large, entrenched institutions is extremely difficult to accomplish, yet it happened. This is not something to be taken lightly. We have charted a new course for future legislatures, one that puts hardworking Iowa taxpayers first, not the government.
We also took charge in regards to the ending balance. Our debt relief bill pays off $114 million in commitments earlier than required, fulfills our obligations in regards to pension funds, makes an investment on one-time infrastructure projects at the regents universities and in water quality.
We came together to make Iowa’s schools and communities stronger by moving education reform that offers flexibility for school districts, innovation for teachers, accountability for parents and protection for taxpayers. Instead of continually throwing money at a less-than-perfect system, we met the challenge to bring about real reform that will provide measurable results. We were also able to strengthen the role of Iowa parents, not the government.
And finally, House Republicans crafted a bipartisan health care plan that focuses on making Iowans healthier without bowing to federal pressure to expand Medicaid. The federal government attempted to force Iowa and other states into expanding a broken and outdated system. Instead of taking the easy way out, House Republicans, led by the Majority Leader and Rep. Rogers, knuckled-down and created an Iowa solution to our own health care needs. This solution improves the quality of care, lowers costs and makes Iowans healthier.
This has been a remarkable session—we set very high expectations and the 150 of us, working together, met them all. As I said in my opening day speech, we are not Washington, D.C. We do not offer ultimatums, push things off until they are nearing a cliff, or wait for a crisis to react. We’re Iowans and I believe once again this General Assembly has proved that we can come together on behalf of Iowans to accomplish serious and meaningful work. Our leaders in the federal government, Congress and the Administration, both Republicans and Democrats, should take notice of our process and results. If Washington operated more like Iowa, America would be much better off.
Again, thank you for your efforts.