County leaders came to the state capitol from all 99 Iowa counties today to urge lawmakers to fully fund local property-tax credits. Wappello County supervisor Mike Peterson says they fear if lawmakers try and balance the budget by eliminating funding for 160-million worth of property-tax credits, counties will have to raise property taxes — or cut public services. He says they might have to leave the county roads with no uniformed law enforcement patrols during the overnight hours, as their budget problems “can get very serious very fast.” Peterson says county managers would also have to cut services people take for granted. He says the last blizzard hit on a Sunday and plows were sent out to clear the roads but with funding cut they’d have to hold off on plowing during weekends, and perhaps only send plows out for emergency cases like getting someone to a hospital. Counties that don’t want to cut service would have to raise taxes, and Palo Alto County supervisor Lannie Miller says last year when the state underfunded the property-tax credits, some of the bill was shifted onto low-income elderly who couldn’t get tax credits they qualified for. He tells of a woman who called crying after she got her tax bill, because she couldn’t pay it — and he calls it a county problem the state has funded up till now. Miller asks why, if the state won’t fund the credits, they were ever put into place. Shell Rock State Representative Bill Dix says the fears of county leaders are premature. He says while lawmakers go about their work this session they’ll have to look at all options, and counties should not feel they’re being singled out. Representative Dix says he thinks the legislature can balance the state budget without touching local governments, but he says if the governor vetoes any parts of the budget they come up with…then property-tax credits may have to be on the table. Governor Vilsack told supervisors at the Iowa Association of Counties meeting last week that they should lobby legislators and get constituents to lobby them, for his tax proposal to be able to fully fund counties.
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