Governor, Legislature will need to compromise to make progress on job growth and creation
There’s no doubt that the 2005 Iowa legislative session will be an odd one. With an evenly divided Senate and Republicans holding a razor-thin majority in the House, constituency groups will need to measure carefully what type of legislative issues they advocate. With consensus measures the only items likely to be enacted, major stand-alone initiatives will either be left on the sidelines or must become part of a larger compromise.
The Iowa Association of Business and Industry intends to remain focused on core issues to improve the state’s business climate in a manner that benefits all Iowans.
Job growth and job creation continue to be the most critical issues facing our state. The number of high-wage jobs in Iowa cannot continue to decrease if we are to offer a lifetime of opportunities to our children. Most Iowans want Iowa to be a state where anyone willing to work hard can provide security for their family, plan for their children’s education and save enough resources to enjoy retirement. Finding a road map to reach these goals has been a challenge for Iowa.
There have been prosperous times in Iowa. Unfortunately, there has not been enough prosperity to go around. How can that be changed? Certainly, higher-wage jobs are important opportunities. Those are also the opportunities that people move for and young people stay for.
In 2003, the governor and the Legislature ended the legislative session at a stalemate over a job-creation package. The governor was passionate about creating a large fund of state money to help lure companies to the state and retrain some of Iowa’s workforce for new jobs. The Legislature, on the other hand, was reluctant to give in on the giveaways and focused on reducing taxes and cutting regulations that hurt our state’s competitive position. Because no compromise could be reached on these major initiatives, nothing happened. No progress was made on job creation.
And even after the Legislature came back in special session, the resulting legislation was unconstitutionally item-vetoed by the governor, leading to a protracted court battle. Again, no progress on job creation.
The 2004 legislative session consisted of much election-year positioning while a final decision on the prior year’s job-creation package was determined in the courts. Again, no progress on job creation.
Finally, in September of this year, compromise was reached between the governor and the Legislature and a comprehensive package that included state incentives for businesses, reduced taxes and more competitive regulations was passed and signed into law. In the compromise, every constituency was disappointed about not achieving more. The state of Iowa, however, finally made progress in job creation.
When the 2005 legislative session convenes in a few weeks, let’s hope the governor and the Legislature can learn a lesson from our recent history. Standoffs and stalemates won’t move the state forward and create the opportunities Iowans need and deserve.
John Gilliland is vice president for government relations of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.