A flurry of votes are likely today in the Iowa House and Senate as a key legislator says there is a “very real possibility” the 2013 legislative session may conclude today. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, delivered a sort of status report yesterday afternoon.
“Members in both chambers, members of both parties are working hard to try to figure this out and making excellent progress,” Paulsen said.
But Paulsen admitted there are a few “outstanding” issues to resolve, including some disagreements over abortion policy and spending, and a few more problems may “pop up” today.
“But I believe we’ll get there,” Paulsen said.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs won’t predict when legislators may complete their work, but he is expressing optimism.
“There are hopeful signs all over the place,” Gronstal told reporters.
Last Thursday Gronstal and Paulsen announced a compromise plan that would cut property taxes and income taxes, but lawmakers have yet to vote on it.
“We took two plans and merged them together,” Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said late last week. “Sometimes you need to remind people that elections have consequences.”
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said Republicans will vote yes, even though the GOP opposes the Democratic proposal included in the bill will increase a tax credit so more low-income Iowans won’t owe state income taxes.
“(That proposal) troubles myself and a number of members, but we’re still prepared to vote for it in spite of that — recognizing that we need to work in a bipartisan way,” Dix said.
Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids is among a group of Democrats who intend to vote against the tax plan.
“I’m opposed to the current property tax proposal because it would cost state and local government $3.8 billion in revenue over 10 years,” Hogg said Tuesday. “It’s just way too costly if we don’t have an alternate source of revenue for government to meet our obligations to the people of the state.”
Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican who’s been pressing for commercial property tax reduction since 2010, angrily disputes those numbers.
“This information being put out by the League of Cities is just flat our inaccurate and inappropriate,” Branstad said during his weekly news conference on Monday.
Branstad said under the compromise plan, cities and counties will get almost $400 million in state funds over the next four years to cover lost commercial property tax revenue, plus the plan allows tax assessments on residential property and farmland to rise three percent each year.
Critics point to another section of the plan which creates a new class of property called “multi-residential” for things like apartments and complexes that cater to senior citizens with assisted living and other services. The plan eventually will cut property taxes on “multi-residential” property in half, and city officials say that will be a huge loss for city budgets.