As lawmakers contemplate the prospect of letting Iowans vote on a constitutional amendment that would set new tax money aside for environmental programs, other interests are racheting up their efforts to put other issues before Iowa voters.
Jeff Boeyink of Iowans for Tax Relief has been lobbying for a constitutional amendment that would let Iowa voters decide all large tax increases proposed in the state. “So that we create one more roadblock, we force the legislature to take one more step before they raise taxes on Iowans,” Boeyink says.
The proposal Boeyink envisions would have Iowans vote on proposed tax increases that’d boost the state’s tax take by at least one percent. In today’s dollars, that would mean any tax increase worth more than 60-million would be decided by voters, not the legislature.
“We don’t want every fee increase, every little nickel-and-dime issue to be on the ballot. That just complicates (the ballot) and people wouldn’t appreciate it,” Boeyink says. “But when you’re going to make a significant change, when you’re going to make a significant increase and change people’s lives, perhaps, then we think that ought to go to a vote of the people.”
Others are pressing lawmakers to have a statewide vote on a penny sales tax used to build and fix-up schools. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City suggests Democrats who control the legislature’s debate agenda may find themselves in a box if they decide to let Iowans vote on constitutional amendment tied to a tax increase that benefits the environment, while saying no to others, including those who want a vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.
“They’re really got a couple tough decisions about whether or not they allow debate on all of it or none of it,” Rants says. “That really seems like the only alternative.” Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, is a bystander in these sorts of decisions as the governor’s signature is not required on legislation that places proposed constitutional amendments before Iowa voters.
Still, Culver backs the idea of letting Iowans vote on a three-eighths-cent increase in the state sales tax to be used to finance environmental projects. “I think we have to take this concept to the people of Iowa to get their reaction,” Culver says. “I commend the legislators here who worked in a bipartisan way to come up with this very creative option.” Culver has said he opposes an immediate vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The governor argues the issue should work its way through the courts first.