Make property tax reform a priority

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 12 2012 | 7:56 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:16 am in
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By Sioux City Journal

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With a budget surplus and strong revenue growth, the state of Iowa sits in an enviable position.

Unlike years of fiscal crisis when little more than belt-tightening was possible, next year will present the Branstad administration and Legislature with opportunities — and enough flexibility in the budget to consider taking advantage of one or more of them.

Although we want and need to see meat on the bones of his plan, including cost, before we can get behind its specific details, we believe Gov. Terry Branstad is on the right track in pushing property tax relief for not only commercial property owners, but for homeowners and for farmers.

“The plan’s not put together yet, so I’d better not put any dollar figure on it except to say I believe that property tax reform should be a top priority and it ought to protect all classes of property and it ought to be fully funded so we assure local governments that they’re going to be protected in the process,” Branstad told reporters last week after an address to the Iowa Taxpayers Association’s 77th annual meeting.

Protection of local governments which worry about a loss of revenue caused by lower property taxes should help prospects for passage of property tax reform in the Legislature.

In light of requests by state agencies and special interests for additional spending in the hundreds of millions of dollars for the next fiscal year, we will repeat what we have said before: Due in part to unknown factors, such as the lingering drought and budget decisions in Washington, the Legislature should embrace a conservative approach with respect to the budget next year, even given good economic numbers.

The same cautionary note was struck by State Auditor David Vaudt and Department of Management Director David Roederer in separate presentations to the Iowa Taxpayers Association earlier this week.

The next session of the Legislature will be about priorities. In our view, providing property tax relief should trump growing state government.

Not only should owners of property enjoy the fruits of our state’s budget and economic strength, but reduction of their property taxes will help position Iowa well for future growth.

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