Mayor Ron Corbett, a former Iowa representative, says the city’s top three legislative priorities are securing funding to make the community healthier, to handle stormwater runoff better and to preserve historic properties.
“These are all big issues for Cedar Rapids, but they also are big issues across the state,” Corbett said.
The mayor credited Gov. Terry Branstad with pushing to make Iowa the healthiest state. Corbett said communities need funds to build trails and add bike lanes.
Corbett anticipates the legislature will consider a watershed management proposal that will provide cost-share money to farmers to help them build buffer strips to contain runoff on their properties. Cities need the same kind of support to build buffers and reduce storm runoff, he said.
Corbett said the Westdale Mall redevelopment project has 72 acres of pavement and roofline that captures no water runoff. A cost-share grant could help support the installation of permeable pavement to allow water to seep into the ground rather than run into the sewers and waterways.
Cedar Rapids will push a proposal to expand the availability of historic tax credits to help developers better afford redeveloping key flood-damaged buildings. Tripling the availability of the tax credits for a year or two will save historic properties without putting a financial burden on the city, Corbett said.
Corbett said Cedar Rapids will continue to watch the legislative debate on property-tax reform and traffic-enforcement cameras.
A year ago, the legislature failed to pass property-tax reform, in part, because of the objections of cities that felt it would take revenue away from them. The intent of the reform is to lessen the property-tax burden of commercial and industrial property owners, who pay property-tax on 100 percent of a property’s value while Iowa’s residential property owners pay tax on about half of the value of their property.
Cedar Rapids will continue to fight to keep traffic enforcement cameras in place, which the city says have reduced crashes even while providing a multimillion dollar annual revenue stream to the city, Corbett said.