The Iowa Farm Bureau is proposing a complicated change in Iowa’s property tax system that would yield two billion dollars for state economic development initiatives and put an end to a tax gimmick cities have been using to bolster development. The kicker, though, is that the plan would slightly increase property taxes for 42 percent of Iowa property owners. That’s not a stumbling block, according to the Governor, legislators and spokesmen for the Farm Bureau who say property taxes will go up, maybe even more, if the current system is preserved. Details of the plan are available on the Internet, at www.iowafarmbureau.com, but it revolves around the idea of doing away with “Tax Increment Financing” districts — folks in the know call ’em TIFs. Cities have granted TIFs so they could use property taxes as collateral to borrow money for infrastructure improvements or to lure businesses. Instead, the Farm Bureau suggests creating a statewide TIF district they call “STIR Iowa.” All the money cities have borrowed would be repaid, but the state would use the extra two billion dollars for economic development, like building the new research labs Governor Vilsack proposes. Farm Bureau officials say their idea would reduce property taxes statewide by about 40-million dollars in just the first year. Over 20 years, the Farm Bureau says their plan would provide 875 million dollars worth of property tax relief.
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