The main sticking point holding up the conclusion of the 2011 Iowa legislative session remains the different approaches the two political parties have proposed on property taxes.
Governor Branstad has said for months that reducing commercial property taxes is one of his top three priorities for the year, although he now seems to be holding out the possibility a deal may not come this week.
“We have been working with both sides on this, trying to see if it’s possible to get something worked out that’s acceptable and we’re continuing to have those discussions, so we’ll see,” Branstad said at his weekly news conference.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, concedes there’s a possibility no compromise will be reached this week and legislators could return in a “special session” later to tackle the issue.
“I suppose anything’s a possibility,” Paulsen says. “But property taxes, obviously, very extremely important and so we continue to work on it.”
Republicans have proposed cutting commercial property tax rates by up to 25 percent. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, is one of the architects of the plan Senate Democrats have proposed, which would create a new state tax credit for commercial property owners.
“Our tax cut is bigger than their tax cut,” Bolkcom says.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says it appears legislators from both parties are nearing agreement on the components of the state budget.
“The big wild card is commercial property tax relief,” McCarthy says.
The new state budgeting year begins on July 1. The biggest conflict on state spending is over how much state aid to forward K-through-12 public schools for the 2012/2013 school year.