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Fact Checker: Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann says Democrat Liz Mathis voted against ‘largest tax cut in Iowa history’
‘Liberal Liz’ attack echoes comments made by campaign of U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, Mathis’ competitor in 2022
When Iowa Sen. Liz Mathis, a Democrat, announced July 27 she would challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District in 2022, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann had a quick response on Twitter:
“Liberal Liz has never met a tax increase she didn’t like. She even voted against the largest tax cut in Iowa history.”
This was almost identical to the statement Hinson campaign manager Sophie Crowell released, saying “liberal Liz has never met a tax hike she doesn’t like — she even voted against Iowa families and the largest tax cut in Iowa’s history,” the Des Moines Register reported.
The Fact Checker isn’t going to check the first part of Kaufmann’s statement because we can’t verify what an elected official likes or doesn’t like. But the second part of the statement, about Mathis voting “against the largest tax cut in Iowa history,” is fair game.
Per our protocol, we asked Kaufmann if he wanted to provide any sourcing, particularly about what he considers the largest tax cut in Iowa history.
This isn’t just a hollow question, because the Iowa Legislature in 2013 passed Senate File 295, which then-Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, called the “largest tax cut in Iowa history.”
The bill, which cut taxes for agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial property owners as well as income tax, was projected to provide $4.4 billion in property tax relief over 10 years as well as $90 million a year in income tax savings.
But that tax cuts was offset with $152 million from the state each year to back fill county and city budgets. Senate File 619, passed earlier this year, will phase out the backfill. So it’s kind of hard to tell how large the tax cut will be, once state money no longer is going to offset the reduction in property taxes.
Then in 2018, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a sweeping income tax bill considered the “largest state income tax reduction in Iowa history,” The Gazette reported. When fully implemented in 2024, the bill is estimated to reduce taxes by $2.86 billion. But that bill also included an increase in the sales tax base, notably by making online purchases subject to sales taxes.
The Legislative Services Agency, which estimates the fiscal impact of bills going through the Statehouse, doesn’t know which of the bills is the “largest tax cut in Iowa history.”
“We don’t rank them,” said Jeff Robinson, the agency’s senior tax analyst. He thinks a 10 percent income tax reduction in 1998 might have been bigger than either the 2013 or 2018 packages.
Kaufmann’s staff wrote back to say the tweet referred to Senate File 2417 passed in 2018. At the time, Mathis said Iowa was “moving backward, not forward” with the bill.
“Most Iowa taxpayers won’t get a tax cut, or see very little cut in their taxes,” she said in 2018. “Our revenues are already low and we've cut things that help the state grow, such as education and help for small businesses.”
She was one of 20 Senate Democrats to vote against it. The bill also passed in the House with no Democratic support.
But if Kaufmann had been referring to the 2013 tax cuts, which when looking at the projected total fiscal impact does seem bigger overall than the 2018 cut, Mathis did vote for that bill. SF 295 passed 43-6 in the Democratic-controlled Senate and 84-13 in the GOP-controlled House.
Slashing taxes is a popular narrative with Republicans, who believe Iowans can make better decisions about how to spend their money than the government. So it’s no surprise Kaufmann and Hinson had the “liberal Liz” moniker ready when Mathis announced her bid.
Kaufmann is correct Mathis voted against a 2018 income tax cut. Whether that package was the “largest tax cut in Iowa history” is debatable. The Legislative Services Agency does not track the ongoing overall fiscal impact of legislation, but a senior analyst there said he thought perhaps another bill, going back to 1998, was larger. If Kaufmann had said Mathis voted against “one of” the largest tax cuts in Iowa history, he would have aced this check. As it is, we give him a B.
The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.
Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.
If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at email@example.com.
Members of the Fact Checker team are Erin Jordan, Michaela Ramm, John Steppe and Marissa Payne. This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.