The top Republican in the Iowa House is among those urging the governor to reject part of a budget bill that would give new authority to city officials. At issue is a bid to give city councils the power to take local option sales taxes raised for a specific purpose, like sewage system improvements, and redirect the money to economic development projects.

House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says while fixing up blighted areas may be worthwhile, it violates the public trust to redirect tax money that voters were told would be used in a different manner.

“If the voters approved a local option sales tax for a specific purpose, then I think the voters’ will should be observed,” Rants says. “…Just to give city councils the authority to just ignore what the voters told them and use the money for something else — even if it’s for a good purpose — that just strikes me as wrong.”

Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, has line item veto authority to reject certain provisions in budget bills. The proposal Rants finds objectionable was included in an amendment to a budget bill that cleared the 2008 legislature in its final hours.

“If this was a good idea, perhaps it should have gone through committee, been discussed somewhere along the lines and voted on as a separate bill rather than just tucked into an amendment that’s dropped on us at one o’clock in the morning and then voted on without any debate or discussion,” Rants says.

Rants is from Sioux City where city voters approved a local option sales tax so that revenue could be used to replace property taxes. “So if they changed the purpose, I’m not sure that’d fly in my town,” Rants says. Some legal experts say city councils might be sued if they were to divert taxes raised for one purpose to a different objective.