Iowa lawmakers are sitting down with the state’s racetrack operators to find a compromise on back taxes the state may owe them, after a state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the tracks this week. It’s estimated that could mean the state owes racetracks in Dubuque, Altoona and Council Bluffs 112-Million dollars. House speaker Christopher Rants says the tracks can’t expect the state to come up with that kind of money in these tough economic times.If the tracks are reasonable and “keep their cool,” Rants says the taxpayers won’t be hit with a big tax bill or have to cut education so money can be sent to Prairie Meadows but if they won’t come to the table ready to be reasonable, then he says “we gotta drop the bag o’ hammers on ’em.” The high court declared, despite a US Supreme Court finding to the contrary, that the state cannot set a tax rate for racetrack casinos that’s higher than the rate for riverboats casinos. But Rants says lawmakers could decide to charge the tracks a “licensing fee” to recoup that refund, or tax the land a casino sits on.Rants says when it comes to sparing taxpayers a 140-million-dollar tax bill, “we can be pretty ingenious,” but he adds he hopes that won’t have to happen. Speaker Rants says he thinks the tracks in Dubuque and Council Bluffs are willing to reach a compromise but he charges that Prairie Meadows is more complicated, because Polk County and the local charities supported by the track are hoping for a windfall from a big tax refund.
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