Executives from chambers of commerce in Iowa’s largest cities today (Monday) urged legislators to enact property tax reform. Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce president and C-E-O Ron Corbett says senators need to vote on a property tax reform bill that cleared the House last week. Corbett says businesses can’t afford for legislators to say they’ll tackle property tax reform next year. “We need a sign and a signal from the legislature that finally, after all these years, property tax reform will be addressed,” Corbett says. “Our message today to the legislators is please don’t throw the towel in on property tax reform. Please don’t adjourn until you’ve secured our economic future by passing the Values Fund and property tax reform.” Robin Anderson, executive director of the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, says property taxes for businesses have gone through the roof over the past 20 years. “We hear up and down our Main Street that one of the biggest impediments for business is commercial property taxes,” Anderson says. Ames Chamber of Commerce executive director David Maahs (moss) says in Ames, many businesses are paying nearly four-dollars-per-square foot in property taxes. That rate on a two-thousand-square-foot home would amount to property taxes of eight-thousand dollars a year. Dave Roederer, a spokesman for the Iowa Chamber Alliance, says there’s a “crisis” in Iowa’s property tax system that’s hurting business development and recruitment. “We’re just trying to provide a little encouragement to have (legislators) maybe take another cup of coffee and try to work this out,” Roederer says. The Iowa Chamber Alliance represents 16 chambers of commerce and economic development, and it is also urging legislators to reestablish the state’s huge “Iowa Values Fund” which hands out big grants to businesses. “We look at the Values Fund and property tax reform as going hand in hand,” Roederer says. “It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to provide some incentives on one hand but then when you over-tax people on the property tax side on the other hand, it kind of defeats the purpose of what we think we should be about in growing the state’s economy.” Governor Tom Vilsack in January challenged legislators to make dramatic reforms in Iowa’s property tax system, and he met with a 12-member panel of legislators to come up with some reform ideas.
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