Thoughts about the 2021 Legislative Session from the Iowa Senate Minority Leader

Senator Zach Wahls provided the Business Partnership with an exclusive as to his thoughts about the latest session.
 

Democrats came into the 2021 session with a bold agenda that was designed to help Iowans hit hard by the COVID19 pandemic, and to help businesses and their employees build back better, bigger and stronger than ever.

Senate Democrats’ COVID Recovery Plan was designed to:

  • Help hurting Iowans. We believed the state had resources to:
    • Support struggling small businesses with direct grants and forgivable loans.
    • Help cities, counties and school districts bounce back from a tough year.
    • Assist food banks that are serving an increasing number of Iowans in need.
  • Build back better by focusing on critical needs. Our agenda included:
    • Keeping local small businesses that are part of the very fabric of our communities.
    • Expanding access to affordable child care throughout the state.
    • Investing in high-speed Internet that will make every corner of Iowa a great place to live, learn and work.

The good news is that the Legislature passed a $100 million initiative to create a new broadband grant program. Although that’s less than the $150 million that Governor Reynolds had requested, we expect that federal coronavirus pandemic aid approved the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Biden to ensure the program is fully funded.

Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled Legislature largely ignored the problems that Iowans faced during the ongoing pandemic and spent a lot of time debating divisive social issues that will make it harder for many Iowa employers to recruit and retain top-quality talent.

Senate Democrats supported legislation that eliminated the inheritance tax and removed so-called “triggers,” which would have sped up tax cuts for most Iowans.  We also supported a number of bills to improve tax incentive programs offered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, including giving them more flexibility to meet the needs of small, developing businesses with innovation investment tax credits. Unfortunately, that proposal didn’t make it into the final tax bill.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed that Republicans decided to eliminate state funding for the “backfill.” The loss of that state money is going to put more pressure on local property taxpayers at a time when assessments are rising.

Looking ahead to next year, I hope the Governor and Legislature will focus on the needs of Iowa businesses and their employees rather than play partisan games.

In 2022, Senate Democrats will be calling on the Governor and legislative Republicans to work in bipartisan way on:

  • Expanding expand access to affordable housing in all 99 counties, including a new low-income housing tax credit.
  • Expanding access to workforce development and job training by fully funding the Future Ready Iowa Initiative.
  • Expanding access to quality, affordable child-care across the state.
  • Increasing support for education at all levels — from pre-school through post-high school options.
  • Backing pro-growth strategies for industrial hemp, improving soil health, and other value-added agriculture initiatives that are good for our farm economy and all Iowans.

If we do all that, we can position our state for long-term economic growth, provide relief for struggling families, help small businesses expand and prosper, and make sure our state truly builds back better and stronger than ever.

 

Authored by Zach Wahls. Wahls is a member of the Iowa Senate from the 37th District. Read more about Wahls by visiting his website or following his Twitter.

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