December 18, 2014

“Optimism” for property tax reform fading

The defeat of a property tax relief plan in the Iowa Senate last night could be the end of the effort to craft a compromise on the issue.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha has been the lead Republican negotiator. “What I must say is as we’re coming here in the final hours, my optimism is not as high as it has been,” Paulsen told reporters.

Lawmakers are hoping to complete the work of the 2012 legislative session soon, perhaps later today, and Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs is offering a blunt assessment of the prospects for property tax relief.

“It is hard to tell at this point,” Gronstal told reporters.

Gronstal said he has offered “several other ideas” to Republicans in an effort to resurrect the issue.

“I’m open to considering some other approaches, but I’m basically getting stonewalled back from them,” Gronstal said.

Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, suggested the plans Senate Democrats have offered won’t provide “meaningful” tax relief.

“Who are we fooling?” Feenstra said. “Our businesses see through this.”

Another reform effort focused on redesigning the way mental health services are provided to poor Iowans hit a stumbling block late yesterday. Counties have been paying to provide mental health care to indigent patients, but legislators want to have the state take over the system, and set up regional hubs for the services to ensure equal access to urban and rural residents. The final details on that plan apparently have been hammered out by a 10-member committee of legislators today.

Another group of 10 lawmakers has been trying to reach an agreement on the budget for the departments of health and human services, but the panel cannot resolve a dispute over abortion policy.