In 1970, when I first moved to Iowa, the state sales tax rate was 3 percent, fresh from a one-point increase three years earlier. It has increased once about every dozen years since. Most recently was 2008 when the Iowa Legislature hijacked the various School Infrastructure Local-Option (SILO) taxes, slamming a statewide uniform rate at 6 percent. It then “charitably” allowed communities an additional local-option tax on top of all that. Linn County voters will decide whether to extend their present one in November.
It is instructive to compare, with readily available Internet data, the census years 1970 and 2010. Iowa’s population, then 25th of all states, grew a scant 7.8 percent versus 52 percent nationally, dropping to 30th. Iowa’s median family income (inflation adjusted) grew just 24 percent but its sales tax bite per capita nearly tripled. Iowa’s leaders, not satisfied to let tax revenues grow commensurately with modest economic and population growth — yet determined to keep up with the other states’ Joneses — saddled our hardworking residents with ever increasing individual burdens.
The frequent chant of local-option tax advocates is “It’s just one penny!” No, it’s not just one penny. It’s another encumbrance riding piggyback on an apparently endless, decades-long progression of increases, with all those “pennies” now adding up to some serious money. Linn County voters should well consider this broader perspective.
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