Tax bill on fast track
We could see floor debate on the Senate tax bill in the next few days. This legislation would—by its proponents' own estimates—cut $1 billion a year in revenue. Coming at a time of existing budget problems, it threatens critical Iowa services from child care and health care to education at all levels.
There is simply no reason for such rapid action on this bill, which was released late last Wednesday, went to subcommittee at 8 a.m. Thursday and was approved by the full Ways & Means committee Thursday afternoon. (The Legislature is not in session on Fridays.)
Lawmakers have yet to fix this year’s budget shortfall. They should not rush into a tax plan that will inevitably lose the state even more money. And it will: there is simply no evidence of tax cuts paying for themselves.
You’d think Iowa would learn from Kansas, where similarly dramatic tax cuts decimated the state budget and caused massive cuts to state services—all the while actually slowing, not adding to, economic growth in the state. Kansas lawmakers recently voted to end the experiment.
"When confronted with the Kansas failure, the bill’s proponents respond that the only problem in Kansas was that they failed to cut services sufficiently to balance their budget,” noted Peter Fisher, research director of the Iowa Policy Project, in a blog post last week. “But here’s the problem: Their constituents were up in arms over the cuts they did enact; they would not have stood for anything more drastic."
Iowans have already felt the real-world consequences of falling revenue and the resulting cuts to education, human services and health care—and they don’t care for them.
It’s also worth noting that as of midday Monday the Senate bill still does not have a fiscal note, a document prepared by the Legislative Services Agency to estimate the bill's fiscal impacts. The Senate is also slated to act before Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference releases its general fund revenue estimates for the balance of FY 18 (the current fiscal year that runs through June 30) and FY 19 next Friday.
This seems like bad idea, given that Iowa has repeatedly had to revise downward its budgets in recent years due to bad news from the REC. In fact, lawmakers have yet to act on a "deappropriations" bill to cut this year's budget following downward estimates released in December.
Alex Howard, deputy director for the open-government group Sunlight Foundation, told AP reporter Barbara Rodriguez over the weekend there are reasons a bill can move swiftly in a state legislature with straightforward legislation under emergency circumstances, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
"'The more complicated the legislation becomes and the more far-reaching it is, the more it makes sense to look at how much time there is for the public to fully understand and digest it,' he said.