Lawmakers form bipartisan task force on property taxes By MIKE GLOVER Associated Press Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Lawmakers said Monday that they've formed a bipartisan task force to tackle the issue of commercial property taxes, with a goal of passing legislation before the end of this year's session.
They said a proposed $25 million package sought by Gov. Chet Culver isn't enough, and that they will push for more.
"Our goal is to pass something this year," said Rep. Phil Wise, D-Keokuk, who will head the task force. "Iowa's burden is among the highest in the nation and that is unacceptable."
The group, made up of five Democrats and four Republicans, will meet weekly for the next month before beginning to draft legislation.
The move is the latest to address an issue that all sides agree is hurting efforts to expand the state's economy. Culver named a special task force to advise him on the issue, and it recommended that $25 million be spent to lower commercial property taxes.
Wise said Democrats are determined to go further, and said they made it a central issue during a campaign where they grabbed control of both the House and Senate.
"We have the political will to do this," Wise said. "We can't wait for another report to come out."
The options facing lawmakers are not pleasant, with all sides ruling out shifting some of the property tax burden to residential or agricultural properties. That means the only options for lowering commercial rates would be to pour in general state dollars, or cut money for local governments, which depend heavily on property taxes.
"All of the options have potential pitfalls," Wise said.
Culver issued a statement saying he will "look forward to working with legislators on both sides of the aisle" to deal with the issue, and he would be willing to look at proposals that go further than what he's suggested.
Meanwhile, the House is set to vote Tuesday on a $107.8 million package increasing state funding for the public schools.
Because local school budgets are made up of general state dollars and local property taxes, the increase - which would allow local budgets to increase by 4 percent - would increase property taxes by $28 million.
Republicans vow to eliminate the property tax increase, allowing on general state dollars instead. Democrats said they'll send the measure to Culver, who included the 4 percent increase in his proposed budget.