Common Good Iowa

Guest opinion: Republicans' superminority plan betrays democracy, voters and Iowa's future

April 3, 2024

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Guest opinion, The Des Moines Register, April 3, 2024

By Anne Discher, executive director, Common Good Iowa

In the Iowa Legislature, it’s “do as we say, not as we do.” With that mantra, the Iowa House last month took the first step toward an anti-democracy amendment to the state constitution that would require a two-thirds majority to pass income-tax rate increases.

By a 61-35 vote — less than the two-thirds supermajority they want to impose on ideas they don’t like — House members sent the resolution (HJR 2006) to the Senate. If it passes there and passes both houses again in the next two years, it could be on the ballot as soon as 2026.

The plan would permit a “superminority”— as few as 17 senators or 34 House members — to block a majority of elected legislators and a governor from acting on taxes as their consciences, fiscal analysis and their constituents may demand.

It’s only a small step removed from a constitutional ban on income taxes, because the requirement is virtually insurmountable. Had such a restriction been in place on last week’s vote, the 35 House members voting no would have blocked the measure from advancing to the Senate.

Income tax rates in Iowa have not been raised in over a quarter-century. In fact, in recent years Iowa majority lawmakers have been doing the opposite: slashing income taxes to primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations. Now they are following the spin of anti-tax extremists on this minority-rule scheme, trying to lock those giveaways in place and denying Iowa a chance to fix the inevitable budget damage by reversing the cuts.

One thing we know is that you can’t get something for nothing. Sometime in the near future — when the surpluses are gone and federal pandemic aid is just a memory — Iowans will see the impacts of these tax cuts.

At that point, they will want to know how lawmakers plan to sustain our schools, health care, child care, clean water initiatives and public safety. But there will be few revenue options if this constitutional amendment is enacted.

Legislators are elected for a two- or four-year term that expires. Lawmakers in office today have no rightful claim to tie the hands of their successors. The same goes for voters. Even though voters may at some point vote on this amendment, they deserve no power that diminishes the will of a majority of future voters.

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Anne Discher is executive director of Common Good Iowa. Contact:

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