2024 Legislative Session Preview

Personal income taxes will not be the only focus in the upcoming legislative session. Iowa’s fiscal conservatism will also touch on corporate taxes and property taxes.

Iowa is currently in a robust financial position, a testament to a series of strategic policies and legislative changes that have shaped its economic landscape. As the 2024 legislative session approaches, the state’s financial health is a key focus, underpinned by a strong revenue base and a commitment to conservative budgeting and tax reforms. This sound fiscal foundation, largely a result of disciplined budgeting and pro-growth policies, has placed Iowa at a pivotal juncture, with potential further tax reforms and limited government initiatives on the horizon.

The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) projects $9.6 billion in revenue for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025, which begins on July 1, 2024.  The magnitude of that amount, despite phased-in tax reductions, underscores Iowa’s resilient revenue streams. This resilience is attributed to Iowa’s strong economy, marked by “organic growth” as described by Kraig Paulsen, chair of the REC. This growth is a result of a vibrant economy where Iowans themselves are actively engaged in earning and spending, contributing significantly to the state’s revenue.

Iowa’s recent history of substantial budget surpluses is another indicator of its strong fiscal health. The state ended FY 2023 with a $1.83 billion surplus, surpassing initial estimates. This trend is expected to continue, with the surplus projected to rise to $2.1 billion in FY 2024 and $3 billion in FY 2025. Such surpluses have not only filled Iowa’s reserve accounts to their statutory maximums but have also fueled remarkable growth in the Taxpayer Relief Fund, which is anticipated to reach nearly $3.85 billion by FY 2025.

These fiscal achievements set the backdrop for the upcoming legislative session, where further income tax reform is a touted goal. Governor Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders have expressed their intent to continue this trajectory, aiming to make Iowa’s tax system more competitive and business-friendly. The recent improvements in Iowa’s ranking in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, moving from 38th to 33rd, demonstrate the positive impact of these reforms. The state is poised to climb even higher in these rankings once the full phase-in of scheduled tax cuts takes effect.

However, it’s not just personal income taxes that are in focus. Iowa’s fiscal conservatism also touches on corporate taxes and property taxes. The state has already enacted measures to reduce the corporate tax rate, and further reductions are projected. Property taxes, though still a challenge, have been addressed through comprehensive reform measures, indicating a commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility.

The legislative session is expected to build on these foundations, with proposals to accelerate existing tax rate reductions likely to be introduced along with entirely new tax cuts. The overarching goal is a more streamlined, efficient government that maximizes economic freedom for its citizens. This direction aligns with Governor Reynolds’s vision of fiscal conservatism, which prioritizes spending restraint and pro-growth policies.

Critics voice concerns about the potential impact of further tax cuts on state revenue and public services. However, Iowa’s continued economic strength and fiscal discipline can accommodate these reforms without compromising essential government functions. This debate underscores the delicate balance between fostering economic growth through tax cuts and maintaining responsible spending growth.

Iowa stands on firm financial footing as it opens the 2024 legislative session on January 8. With substantial budget surpluses, a healthy economy, and a commitment to fiscal conservatism, the state is well-positioned to explore further tax reforms. Over the next several days, ITR Foundation will preview a handful of issues that the legislature may debate in 2024.  These policies aim to enhance Iowa’s competitiveness, attract new businesses, and offer greater economic liberty to its residents.  In addition to another round of income tax cuts, Iowans would benefit from their lawmakers considering a conservative budget, new constitutional protections, regulatory reforms for job creators, and more improvements to our property tax system.

 The upcoming legislative session will exhibit how these ambitions get translated into actionable policies that further shape Iowa’s future.

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