The Iowa Senate has voted to grant a 12-and-a-half million dollar tax break to the proposed Newton race track, but only if a majority of the track’s owners are Iowans. Senator Roger Stewart, a Democrat from Preston, says the tax break is in the form of a rebate of sales taxes collected from track ticket and concession sales, and will only be given if Iowans own 60 percent of the facility. “If there’s some change in control down the road, this sales tax rebate would stop,” Stewart says. Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a Republican from Waverly, says it makes sense. “We want to make sure the money goes to Iowans and not out-of-state people,” Brunkhorst says. But the move has critics, like Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, who say there’s no demand that the track’s investors pay good wages or return profits to the community. “At the very time when this legislature is demanding accountability in our teachers, in our public employees and in a criminal justice system against the most dangerous criminals, we have become blinded by the vision of stock cars revving up in our heads,” Hatch says. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, made a final pitch to his fellow Senators, asking for a “yes” vote on the bill. “With that green light that you can put up, let’s bring Iowa out of the pits and put it back on the lead lap,” Dotzler said. The House will now consider the Senate’s Iowa-ownership requirement. The Senate also voted to revisit the sales tax rebate idea in a couple of years to see if other venues in the state might get a similar break. The House has already endorsed the idea of refunding the 12-and-a-half million dollars in sales taxes to the track’s owners.
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