“Boy, were you wrong,” said a muffled voice that approached from the east as I neared Terrace Hill on my daily walk. Beneath the furry hood and orange scarf, I could barely make out the blue-gray eyes of my old friend K.C.

“Big deal,” I said. “I’m wrong about a lot of things. I thought Iowa State was going to have a decent basketball team this year.”

“Like you’d know,” K.C. huffed. You’re a Ted Lasso when it comes to sports.”

“Thanks, I think,” I said.

“It wasn’t a compliment,” K.C. replied.

“What’s your point?” I asked.

“This is about politics,” he said. “It’s about state government.” 

“Well,” I answered, “I do know more about that than college basketball.”

“Apparently not much,” K.C. grunted. “Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when you wrote that column about taxes and called it ‘the big picture’?”

“Sure,” I said. “My point was that state government had received a boatload of pandemic relief from the federal government and that the extra cash had been a big help to keep state and local governments afloat.”

I had written that, by the end of 2020, federal payments to Iowa totaled more than $4.7 billion, the equivalent of a little more than half of state government’s annual tax collections. 

“Yeah, but you made one big mistake,” K.C. said. “You gave Gov. Kim Reynolds too much credit.”

“How so?” I asked.

“You said that because of the pandemic and all the uncertainty about future tax collections, Gov. Reynolds believed it was too early to resume the tax cutting she’d initiated in 2018,” K.C. said.

“That’s right,” I said. “She told Statehouse reporters in early January that she had decided not to seek additional tax cuts this year, even though that’s what Republicans in the General Assembly wanted.

“Well,” K.C. said, looking up at Terrace Hill, Iowa’s governor’s mansion, “either those Statehouse reporters misunderstood her, or she quickly forgot what she said, because when she gave her Condition of the State address she said just the opposite.

“She said she was OK with getting rid of the economic triggers that were part of the 2018 tax cut law. Those triggers prevent additional tax cuts from going into effect until certain revenue targets are met.” 

“That’s right,” I said. “The triggers were created to keep lawmakers from rolling Iowa’s economy off a cliff by cutting taxes too quickly, like Kansas and other states did a few years back. 

“Gov. Reynolds created the triggers,” I added.

“Now she wants to get rid of them,” K.C. said. 

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Just look at her Condition of the State speech,” he said. “‘Unnecessary triggers’ is what she called them.” 

“But she created those triggers to keep lawmakers from cutting taxes too quickly and eliminating funding for education and economic development and a bunch of other stuff,” I said. 

“And now she wants to get rid of them,” K.C. repeated. “She’s totally ignoring the fact that the  federal government poured nearly $5 billion into the Iowa economy last year.

“Where does she think she’s going to get the money to support the efforts she wants to make in education, mental health, child care, rural broadband and hospitals?

“Removing the triggers and allowing the tax cuts to go forward in 2022 will cost state government nearly $160 million in the 2023 fiscal year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Agency,” K.C. said. 

“And it just gets worse,” he added. “The agency’s projections show the annual deficit grows to more than half a billion dollars in 2027. 

“Any new initiatives she launches will fall flat on their faces without the federal pandemic money,” K.C. said, as he turned and walked into a cold wind.