Iowa voters should demand property tax reform
By: Mark Lucas
Cedar Rapids Gazette- Opinion
In May, Iowa celebrated a dubious milestone: State government logged an record in tax collections. With $794.5 million in net tax receipts to the state treasury, it’s a boom time for state government.
Yet it’s anything but a boom time for Iowa taxpayers and workers, who are still struggling with a high unemployment. That’s all the more reason that Iowans should redouble their efforts in demanding tax relief — especially reforming the state’s onerous property tax.
The failure to act on property tax reform, despite most lawmakers agreeing that reducing the burden on Iowa taxpayers is a critical priority, was surely the biggest disappointment in this year’s legislative session in Des Moines.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Gov. Terry Branstad showed vision and leadership in his bold property tax reform proposal, which would have brought permanent relief to taxpayers. If enacted, Branstad’s plan would have saved Iowa taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion in property taxes over the next eight years, and cut the property taxes paid by businesses almost in half over the same time period.
The House of Representatives did its part to stand up for taxpayers, passing House File 2274 in February. Unfortunately, the issue died in the Senate, and lawmakers adjourned without addressing this urgent issue.
High property taxes aren’t just a burden on taxpayers; they’re also bad for business. Just ask the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, which recently ranked Iowa 41st in the nation in its annual business tax climate index. High property taxes, combined with a corporate tax rate that towers over that of other states, earned that ranking.
Providing real, permanent property tax relief would boost our economy and put Iowans to work. While Iowa is fortunate to boast an unemployment rate that’s lower than the national average, the state jobless rate of 5.1 percent is still a full percentage point higher than it was four years ago. We can do better, and reducing the tax burden on business owners and homeowners is a good place to start.
Other states are already picking up on the fact that property tax reform is a critical issue. On June 12, voters in North Dakota considered a measure to eliminate property taxes entirely — it failed, but started an important conversation in that state.
According to a June 12 report in the New York Times, lawmakers and activists in states as disparate as North Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania are also eyeing proposals to eliminate property taxes outright. In Iowa, we’re looking at a more incremental approach — merely asking for the first steps toward sensible reform to bring relief for taxpayers.
My organization has been a vocal advocate for property tax relief because we recognize that putting money back into the hands of taxpayers and consumers will be good for the economy. We’re already gearing up to send a message to lawmakers that reducing the burden of property taxes isn’t just good politics — it’s good policy for Iowa.
Lawmakers are hitting the campaign trail to ask for your vote, which means now is the time to send them a message: If we send you to Des Moines, don’t come back without property tax relief.
Mark Lucas is the Iowa State director of Americans for Prosperity, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to limited government, reduced spending and taxes, and expanding economic freedom. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org