Budget and tax issues loom as lawmakers look to adjourn
Iowa lawmakers are negotiating tax policy and next year’s budget in an effort to shut down the 2021 session in the coming weeks. The Legislature’s scheduled end is Friday, April 30, but it appears unlikely lawmakers will complete their work by then, pushing the 2021 session into overtime.
In a sure sign adjournment is getting closer, committees on both sides are advancing appropriations bills. Agreement between House and Senate GOP leaders on overall spending has so far been elusive, but key lawmakers are working behind the scenes to find agreement in particular budget areas.
Tax issues also remain unresolved. Senate Republicans are advancing legislation that would fully implement income tax cuts passed in 2018, but it is unclear at this point what a final tax package will include.
Gov. Kim Reynolds pleaded with Iowans to get vaccinated as doses of COVID vaccine go unused in rural areas of the state, where a sizable number of residents are choosing not to get the vaccine.
“Today, I want to appeal to everyone who is hesitating. If you’re opting to wait and see, what are you waiting for?” Reynolds said.
A total of 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties declined all or part of their vaccine allocations this week as appointments remained unfilled. The vaccine supplies originally meant for rural areas of the state were reallocated to more populous areas where demand is higher. But even in metro areas, appointments to receive a vaccine are taking longer to fill than when supplies were more limited.
Some Iowans have begun to reconsider getting vaccinated after the Johnson & Johnson vaccines were halted by the FDA as a precautionary measure, Reynolds said. A small number of adverse but serious reactions from the J&J vaccines were reported by a handful of patients.
At the State Capitol, a group opposed to vaccinations has effectively stalled progress on legislation that would allow additional medical professionals to administer vaccines. Reynolds said “vaccine hesitancy” has become a factor not just in Iowa but around the country, particularly after the J&J announcement.
It’s not all bad news for Iowa. Last week, Iowa reached 2 million doses administered, just five weeks after hitting the 1 million mark. So far, 900,000 Iowans, or 37%, are fully vaccinated, ranking Iowa 15th in the country. More than 53% of Iowans age 18 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Younger and middle-age adults were the least likely to be vaccinated. Reynolds said they’ll intently focus on getting college students vaccinated in the coming months. At Iowa State University, large-scale vaccine clinics are being held on campus to vaccinate as many students as possible before they return home from the spring semester.