Common Good Iowa

Tax-Cut Overreach: A thumb on the scale

Posted on 03/22/2022 at 04:06 PM by Mike Owen

Under Senate Study Bill 3064, one “no” vote is worth two “yes” votes.

Try explaining that in Social Studies class.

Common Good Iowa is registered against this legislation for two principal reasons.

First, it betrays fundamental democratic principles of representative government.

For all the boasting about our defense of one-person, one-vote during reapportionment last fall, this restraint on the voters’ will makes a mockery of that concept.

Second, it’s going to make the cleanup from this year all that much tougher.

This Legislature has put Iowa on a course for drastic cuts in revenue that are certain to affect public services down the road — long after many current legislators have left office. As it stands, future legislators could at least shift gears if the nearly $2 billion in income-tax cuts, mainly for the wealthy, become a problem recognized by a majority of Iowans and their leaders.

But under this proposal, it will be too late. A two-thirds majority requirement is too burdensome in regular business, let alone an emergency — such as a derecho or other natural disaster where state action is demanded.

In fact, even with the large majorities in the current House and Senate, a two-thirds majority is likely not reachable for even what lawmakers have approved so far, had it been required.

But of course here some legislators are proposing to set tax policy — specifically tax increases — apart from the directly related question of investments in education and human services and environmental quality.

This legislation would assure a thumb on the scale, for this legislature and the next, against deliberative decisionmaking by our future elected officials.

Iowa legislative leaders would be crying “Foul!” today had previous legislatures taken this cynical and arrogant approach to restrain their authority.

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Mike Owen is deputy director of Common Good Iowa, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy analysis and advocacy organization. Contact: mowen@commongoodiowa.org.

This piece is drawn from remarks prepared for a Senate subcommittee hearing on SSB 3064, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds majority approval by both the House and Senate of any income, corporate income, or sales tax increase in Iowa. If passed in 2022 by both houses of the Legislature, the measure would need to pass both houses again during the next General Assembly (2023-24), before going to the ballot for voter approval.

Categories: Budget & taxes

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