The good news for Iowa lawmakers when they return to Des Moines in a couple of weeks is that state tax receipts are in better shape than they have been at any time in recent years.  

That’s largely due to tax law changes legislators made last year that allowed the state to skim profits off the federal tax cut that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018.  

As I explained last month, when Iowa lawmakers chose not to synchronize state tax laws with the federal tax cuts until Jan. 1, 2019, they effectively taxed the extra income Iowans received from lower federal tax rates for one full year.

If they hadn’t, there would still be red ink in the state budget.

The imbalance was caused in part by a slowdown in the farm economy. Another factor was poor budget forecasting. Part of the problem was also that lawmakers failed to rein in tax credits that were intended to spur economic development, but which never achieved the desired result.

As lawmakers come back to town, they can breathe a little easier, but the challenges they face are still considerable and will only get worse the longer they wait to address them. Right now:   

- Iowa’s drinking water is in serious trouble and isn’t getting any cleaner. 

- The amount of money available for public safety and judicial operations hasn’t kept pace with problems.  

- The same is true for education and health care needs.  

- Trade policies have left Iowa’s farm economy in its worst shape since the 1980s farm depression.

- And the lack of decent broadband in rural Iowa is creating a new poverty wedge that’s pushing deeper and deeper into our small towns.  

My point is that Iowa has a lot of problems that are not going to be solved by one legislative session.  

But there are things this session can do that will open the door for future progress. 

It starts with recognizing the problems and the fact that none of us — not the governor, not the Legislature, not the Republican Party and not the Democratic Party — has all the solutions.  

We’re all going to make mistakes, but it works out better when we give each other the benefit of the doubt and focus on being as open and transparent as possible. 

If we all keep our minds open, you might be surprised at how much we can accomplish.

We won’t solve all of Iowa’s problems. But maybe, just maybe, we can agree on a framework where we can all work together.  
Iowa Grand Slam

For more than a decade I’ve been trying to accomplish what I call Dave’s Grand Slam of Golf in Iowa by playing at least one day in Iowa every month of the year. 

I’ve come close several times, only to be foiled by a snowstorm that shuts out March or below-zero temperatures that sideline local courses in January or February.

But going into November of this year, I was hopeful. Last winter, I’d played in Iowa at least one day each month from December through March. For me, that was the functional equivalent of Tiger Woods’ career Grand Slam in 2000 and 2001 when he won all four major golf tournaments, but not in the same calendar year. 

I finally achieved my goal this year. 

After playing each month from January through October, I was able to play twice in Des Moines during November. Then a couple of weeks ago I played nine holes at Blank and 18 holes at Legacy Golf in Norwalk.  

On that final day, Dec. 15, I had the low score in our foursome, which for me is almost as rare as playing year-round in Iowa.