A bill advancing at the statehouse would let leaders in the Cedar Rapids area ask voters to raise the sales tax, locally, this spring to help finance flood repairs. Every Iowa county already has the authority to levy a one-cent "local option" sales tax. Linn County officials, however, missed the deadline for setting up a vote on a local option sales tax this spring.

The bill that today cleared a state senate committee would let the vote occur in March 3rd, and the tax could take effect April 1st. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs sees little opposition to the bill. "We think it’s appropriate to give local goverments some ability to help themselves out of their crisis. That’s what this would allow Cedar Rapids and Linn County to do," Gronstal says. "…We intend to be there and be partners with them. As you know, we’ll be passing our disaster bill next week and later we’ll be passing a bonding bill, but we think letting the City of Cedar Rapids have this opportunity to help pull themselves up by their own boostraps is important as well."

If the bill doesn’t pass and a local option sales tax vote in Linn County is held at the next available time in June, experts say as much as four million dollars in local option sales taxes that could have been collected in April, May and June would be lost.

House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is a Linn County legislator. "One of the things that the city leaders apparently want to do is allow the electorate to make this decision — and then they decide yes, then that sends a signal to the state legislature: ‘We’re doing all we can do,’" Paulsen says.

This afternoon, another legislative committee will review a bill which would take $56 million out of the state’s economic emergency fund to provide state aid to victims of last year’s natural disasters.


AUDIO: Democrats news conference (mp3 runs 16 min)