A Senate committee has voted to give a 12-and-a-half million dollar tax break to the proposed race track in Newton. Under the plan, the state’s five percent sales tax would be charged on tickets to races, but the state would refund that money to the track’s owners. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the track will be an economic boost to the state. “I truly believe that this will enhance economic development…throughout the whole state ofIowa and increase tourism,” Dotzler says.The cost of erecting the track and stands for 25-thousand spectators is about 99 million, and track managers say it would have an annual operating budget of 70 million. “Newton, (it’s) no secret to anybody, has had some economic problems with Maytag continuing to downsize,” Dotzler says. “I think (the track) is going to provide some great opportunities.” Dotzler says it’s not just a race track — there’ll be a museum, restaurants and hotels that’ll spur economic activity, too. Senator Mark Zieman a Republican from Postville, says he likes the idea of giving a tax break once the track’s in business. “What I like about this is very simple: it doesn’t cost (the state) any money up front,” Zieman says. “If they produce, they get the tax break.” Zieman says the track will appeal to young people. “I’m not great on watching NASCAR, but I know a lot of friends who just are absolutely nuts over it,” Zieman says. But the state tax break does have critics in the legislature. Senator Mike Connolly, a Democrat from Dubuque, says every track, cultural center or tourism outlet in the state will want the same tax break. “As much as I want to help Newton…I want to the extra mile, but…this is bad tax policy,” Connolly says. Senator Joel Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, agreed. Bolkcom says legislators are “opening a can of worms” because there will demands from other projects around the state for a similar tax break. Senator Brad Zahn, a Republican Urbandale, opposed the tax break at first, but changed his mind because it won’t be offered unless the track is a go.Zahn says the proposed tax break which would refund state sales taxes on admissions is “thinking out of the box.” Dotzler agreed. ‘We’re going to have to look at new ways of stimulating economic growth in this state and I think this is a great way of doing it,” Dotzler says. The bill cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee early this (Tuesday) afternoon, and its next stop is before the full Senate.
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