DES MOINES — Top GOP legislators said Wednesday they and Gov. Kim Reynolds were making progress in deciding how best to deliver income tax relief to Iowans and that they hope to reach an agreement by week’s end that would put them on the path to adjournment.
“We’ve made a lot of progress the last two days and hopefully we’ll have an agreement in the very near future,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said. “The goal would be this week.”
Rep. Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a key negotiator, shared that optimism, telling reporters “it’s just a matter of getting people to agree on the basics, but I think we’re much closer today than we were yesterday.”
Whitver said talks over the competing plans offered by the governor and both chambers — with cuts ranging from $1.3 billion to $2 billion over five years — basically boiled down to how the final approach is implemented, what elements to include and in what time frame so Iowans get the full benefit of federal income tax cuts and additional state relief.
“We want to agree on a tax plan that’s going to stimulate the economy, put more money in people’s pockets and help give some of the ‘Trump bump’ back to Iowa taxpayers. Because, if we do nothing, then what we’re in effect doing is letting a state income tax increase be passed on to Iowa taxpayers, and nobody wants that,” said Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said all parties in the negotiations are moving toward agreement on “the big pieces.”
She said she expected to have the “big picture framed up” so legislators would be in a position to start debating and passing the tax plan and fiscal 2019 state budget bills beginning next week.
Upmeyer said the focus has been on what should be included in the tax cut and reform plan, and at what level.
The goal, she said, is to provide realistic tax cuts while maintaining a stable and predictable revenue stream that funds priorities in education, health care, public safety and other key government programs and services.
“The House won’t agree to a bill that causes budget grief in the future,” Vander Linden said. “We are not going to write a tax bill that guts the appropriations bills.”
Once the final agreement is reached on tax reform, Whitver said, it would probably take another 10 days for lawmakers to finish their 2018 session work, given the time it takes to draft, print, distribute and debate bills, along with time for private caucuses and amendments.
The session’s 101st day on Wednesday was marked by limited floor debate in the House and a skeleton crew of key GOP leaders and budget subcommittee chairmen on hand.
The Senate was in session for four minutes Wednesday, and no floor debate is scheduled in either chamber Thursday as majority Republicans meet again in hopes of finishing talks aimed at hammering out the final tax-cut package.
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