“Corporations are not people!” That was the message at the “People First Iowa” lobby day hosted by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement on January 14. Over 200 members from across the state braved the freezing rain to descend on the Statehouse in Des Moines on the second day of the legislative session – the day Governor Terry Branstad delivers his annual State of the State Address.
CCI came out swinging just before the big day, releasing an alarming analysis of Iowa’s long-term budget outlook that shows an initial $88.8 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2015 that will have to be covered by dipping into Iowa’s surplus fund in order to pay for the start-up costs of corporate property tax cuts Branstad is proposing – set at $135.9 million in FY15 but scheduled to grow to $277 million next year, eventually peaking out at an unsustainable $380 million per year.
In response to the Branstad budget, CCI is demanding that the legislature raise new revenue from the very wealthy and big corporations in order to fully fund the vital public services that everyday people and hardworking families depend on. Their “People First Iowa” initiative includes:
- Raising the minimum wage – more personal income means a larger tax base, and more money in workers’ back pockets means more demand, which creates more spending;
- Combined corporate reporting – to close a loophole in Iowa tax code that allows out-of-state corporations like WalMart and McDonalds to avoid paying income taxes on sales generated in Iowa;
- Ending the Research and Development Tax Credit, which gives out-of-state corporations like John Deere and Rockwell Collins a tax credit so large that they end up receiving a rebate check from state government rather than actually paying any taxes themselves;
- Closing three tax loopholes that factory farm polluters get on their manure pits, animal feed, and electricity.
- Passing a Corporate Tax Transparency Act that would require publicly traded companies doing business in Iowa to publicly post the state taxes they pay, or don’t pay, so that everyone knows.
Each year of his administration, Governor Branstad has pushed an agenda of corporate welfare for his wealthy donors. In Iowa, that means big factory farms get lax regulations, cushy political appointments and tax breaks while preschools close, mental health services get shut down and wages stagnate. It’s a situation where polluters rule, and people suffer.
But each year, from the first day of the legislative session, Iowa CCI has been there to push back against this one percent agenda with policies that would raise revenue for everyday people by making corporations pay their fair share.
Throughout the day, CCI members met with their legislators, lined the hallways as Governor Branstad walked to deliver his speech, rallied in and outside the Statehouse, and demanded at each turn that their elected officials work for them, not corporations. Legislative powerbrokers – including Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum, House Minority Leader Mark Smith, and Senator and Democratic Candidate for Governor Jack Hatch – all affirmed that they supported the CCI agenda and would fight for their issues.
It was a powerful day of victory for members of Iowa CCI, who come from all walks of life, but are united behind a vision that puts people before corporations. But the fight is just beginning, and this legislative session they are ready to go on offense. Winning a real people first agenda is going to take hard work, perseverance, and energy, and Iowa CCI has the right combination of all three.
The lobby day in Iowa is just the start of a season of powerful legislative actions across the country. Next week, the Illinois People’s Lobby will gather to celebrate Martin Luther King by demanding that their elected officials support a people first agenda. Later this month, Kansas People’s Action will do the same, followed by our affiliates in Minnesota, New York, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and across the country.
Follow the action online here, and on twitter by keeping up with #ppl1st