Common Good Iowa

Uncommonly bad tax plans on table

Posted on January 29, 2022 at 9:05 AM by Mike Owen

Now we have at least three tax-cut plans at the Statehouse to take Iowans down the low road. Whether it’s to the poorest of states or the 19th century is not yet certain.

There sure are a lot of dollar signs and percent signs in these plans — and a lot of uninformed happy talk about the glory of a world without taxes. 

But the theme that unites all three bills is undeniable: We should do less for ordinary Iowans, especially kids and those struggling to make ends meet, so we can give the rich and the comfortable more tax breaks.

The funds we’ve built up by underinvesting in schools, health and work protections over the years? Quick, give them away to the richest, before we have a chance to build something together.

Proponents of these plans don’t want you to recognize some basic facts:

·       The income tax provides half of the state’s general fund, and over half of general fund spending goes to education. The hit to schools from big income-tax cuts would not be mitigated by “growth” or other revenue sources, and it would be devastating. Other critical services would not avoid damage either.

·       A so-called “flat” income tax actually would make our overall system less flat by giving the highest-income people, who already pay the lowest share of their incomes in total state and local taxes, the biggest breaks. Property taxes and sales taxes already favored the wealthiest. (See graph below.)

·       Because of tax breaks already in place, the proposed elimination of tax on retirement income focuses its benefits on seniors at higher incomes.

Iowans are full of powerful ideas for how to make ours a stronger, more welcoming state that offers opportunity, health and prosperity to all Iowans. These slash-and-burn tax-cut proposals are almost certain to hinder them all. New ideas? Sorry, no money.

From Iowa’s leaders we are getting not an agenda for the common good, but an agenda to represent the interests of the few, the rich and the powerful.

Someday we can hope state leaders, at the front end of decision making, will listen to the visions of people in all walks of life who make this a better society — including the teachers, the caregivers, the rescuers and the community volunteers.

Until then, those of us on the outside need to stick together and resist power brokers’ attempts to divide us from a focus on the common good of all Iowans.


Mike Owen is deputy director of Common Good Iowa, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research and advocacy organization formed by the 2020 merger of the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines and the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City. Contact:

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