House Republicans have formalized their latest state spending and tax policy proposals, passing a nearly 600-page bill this afternoon. A two-year spending plan for state government is outlined in the legislation.
Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines, predicted the bill crafted by House Republicans will be “dead on arrival” in the Democratically-led Senate.
“I don’t know what your motive is…but the longer you do stuff like this, the closer to July 1 we come, then the closer we get to a possible shut-down and disruption of services in this state.”
Representative Chris Hagenow, a Republican from Windsor Heights, responded.
“I would suggest that our being here is extremely helpful,” Hagenow said. “We are putting together another proposal, another vehicle that, if our colleagues in the Senate would choose to act, could resolve this problem more quickly.”
The legislation includes a plan to reduce commercial and industrial property taxes by 25 percent over five years. First-term Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, called that an “important” step for the state’s economy.
“During my campaign I made a lot of comments on, you know, sending that message that the state of Iowa is open for business and I really feel that this bill sends that message,” Byrnes said.
Representative Erik Helland, a Republican from Grimes, called it “the most comprehensive” property tax relief proposed in his lifetime.
“(It has been) 31 years since we’ve actually done anything substantial and substantive on property taxes,” Helland said. “That’s a long time to focus Iowans’ hard-earned dollars back into government and away from wealth creation and away from the free market.”
But Democrats in the House suggested big businesses would be the biggest beneficiaries. Representative Jerry Kearns, a Democrat from Keokuk, put it this way.
“I’ve not heard from my local Walmart that they need to have their property taxes reduced, nor do I think they need it either,” Kearns said. “I have heard from some of the small, Main Street, local businesses who might appreciate some relief and need it. So, do I believe we should target commercial property tax reductions to those who need it? You bet I do.”
Other Democrats like Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City warned cities and counties with reduced commercial and industrial property tax revenue would hike the amount of property taxes home owners pay to make up for the loss.
“So basically we’re doing a shuffle with taxpayers’ dollars,” Steckman said. “…The city I come from, they’ve already stated they’ve cut to the bone. They can’t cut any more.”
Debate in the House began shortly after 8:30 this morning and, for four hours, the representatives discussed the property tax provisions in the legislation. Republicans then voted to attach to the massive bill a slew of proposals which had passed the House earlier this year but haven’t become law, including a ban on synthetic versions marijuana like K-2 and salvia.