State Policy Network is pleased to welcome a new state think tank affiliate into the network! The Tax Education Foundation in Iowa joined SPN’s membership this spring, becoming the 64th independent state think tank in the 50-state network.
Tax Education Foundation (TEF) was founded in 1982 to promote economic freedom by educating the public on the principles of reduced spending, lower taxes, and limited government. Its founder, David Stanley, was a long-time leader in the Iowa legislature, and he knew that Iowa needed an educated citizenry if actual change was to occur. David also founded Iowans for Tax Relief and Public Interest Institute, which was a long-time SPN member until its closing this year. TEF is now stepping more completely into the role of being a free-market voice in the Iowa policy world.
TEF focuses on tax and spending issues, but the organization also cares about transparency, a reduction in the regulatory burden, and anything else that helps deliver freedom to Iowa families and businesses. For TEF’s own members, property taxes are a major concern, and the organization will be shining a spotlight on property tax solutions in the near future. Since Iowa is competing with neighboring states for employees and employers—if not the rest of the world—the state must ensure Iowa doesn’t turn opportunities away with high taxes.
“Interestingly, I think sharing a border with Illinois works against us,” observed CEO Chris Ingstad. “There are too many issues we discuss with people that generate the same response: ‘But we’re not as bad as Illinois.’ I suppose that is true in many policy areas, but just because we are in better shape than our neighbor doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep striving to improve.”
So, how does TEF go about serving citizens and encouraging Iowa to improve?
“It’s when we educate citizens by bringing government right to them through social media, through op-eds in Iowa newspapers, and meetings with groups or activists in their hometowns,” said CEO Chris Ingstad. “People are busy, and they need an organization to make it easy for them to be informed or even to take action.”
When asked what other states can learn from Iowa, Ingstad put it simply: “Taxes matter, and you don’t want to be an outlier. States don’t want to stand out from their neighbors in a negative way.”
Iowa’s income tax rates are still higher than all of its neighbors except for Minnesota. And one neighbor, South Dakota, has no income tax at all. The impact of these differing rates shows up in job growth and development. In healthcare alone, for instance, the border communities in South Dakota have added over 100 healthcare locations in the past 10 years. The Iowa communities on the other side of that same state line have added only eight.
The TEF team is passionate about championing solutions that will make Iowa just as opportunity-rich as its neighboring states. Their team of four comes from different backgrounds but shares a love of good coffee and barbecue. Their skills and experience combine to form a dynamic and talented team:
- John Hendrickson is TEF’s Policy Analyst, and he’s the only one who cut his teeth in this world of policy and politics.
- Dan Steele, the Communications Director, has a resume full of printing and design work.
- Ernie Adkison is responsible for outreach, and he’s a trained minister. Ernie probably puts the most miles on his car, so if you want to know where to get a good cup of coffee just about anywhere in the state, ask him.
- Chris Ingstad has a background is in finance, so he’s eager to keep TEF focused and organized—especially by putting everything into a spreadsheet.
For Chris and his team, the most meaningful part of joining SPN is that TEF will have access to a network of leaders who share ideas, experience, and encouragement.
“We often feel like we are on an island—this lone voice supporting conservative principles,” said Ingstad. “We’re excited to link up with others who share the same perspective and learn from the success they are having. The resources and connections that become available to us as an SPN member are going to be incredibly valuable.”