URBANDALE - Republicans who will control Iowa's legislative agenda for the next two years said Wednesday they expect to produce big, bold changes that will reduce Iowans' tax burdens as well as the level of government spending and regulations that create barriers to growth.
"The message that I am taking from voters is that they expect us -- for lack of a better term -- to kick the door in," said incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock. "We don't expect government to continue to do business the way that we have."
Dix, who led a successful GOP effort in the Nov. 8 election to take control of the Iowa Senate with 29 members, and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, who boasts an expanded 59-member majority in the Iowa House, gave a preview of their 2017 agenda to members of the Westside Conservative Club on Wednesday.
Hagenow said many of the ideas passed over the past six years by House Republicans on water quality, tax reform, expanded gun rights, "common-sense" collective bargaining changes and election-law modifications blocked by majority Senate Democrats will become the starting points for discussions by the GOP-led General Assembly and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.
Dix said requiring voters to produce a valid photo identification to receive an Iowa election ballot will be among the first order of business when Republicans convene the 2017 session on Jan. 9. He also said a major focus will be on spending less and creating opportunities for growth.
"The states that are growing the fastest today are the ones that have recognized that economic policy and tax policy makes a big difference," he said. "High income tax punishes people who want to work, save and make investments in our state. We need to recognize that. States that have grown the fastest the last couple of decades across our country today are the ones that have either lowered their rates, broadened their base and kept things simple or moved to no income tax at all."
Hagenow said he looked forward to having a Senate that works as a partner rather than an obstacle to change and he expected a good working relationship with the executive branch whether Branstad stays on through the 2017 session before leaving to become U.S. ambassador to China or resigns and turns the reins of state government over to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in the coming months.
Both GOP leaders acknowledged a pent-up demand among Republican constituents for change on a variety of tops now that they control all aspects of the Statehouse for the first time in 20 years but they said not all things can be accomplished immediately.
"We only have so much time and so we need to make sure that we're prioritizing first on things that will make the biggest difference," said Dix, who was a freshman House member the last time Republicans controlled the Legislature and the governorship during the 1997-98 session.
"We want to leave a legacy of opportunity here in Iowa for our state and for people to look back two years down the road and say, 'you know, this was the time when the difference was made.' We're prepared to do what it takes to get that job done. We're not going to forget what you sent us all there to do and we're going to get it done," Dix said.