Dan Dawson. (IA Legislature photo.)

A key lawmaker says Republicans in the Iowa Senate intend to reform Iowa’s property tax system in 2023.

Senator Dan Dawson, a Republican from Council Bluffs, is chairman of the Senate committee that drafts tax policy. “We are going to be laser focused on property taxes this upcoming session,” Dawson says. “Frankly, it may be one of the only few topics that the Ways and Means Committee from the Senate is prepared to look at.”

Dawson says the system has been “on auto pilot” and it’s time for meaningful reform of property tax levies.

“If we’re going to make that kind of a change, I hope we use a scalpel and not an ax,” says Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, “because right now, local governments are way too dependent on one tax — and that is property.”

A couple of years ago, state officials agreed to spend about $100 million on Iowa’s mental health system, paying bills that have been covered by county property taxes — but Dawson says that’s barely, if at all, reduced Iowans’ property taxes.

“What we have done thus far appears to not be producing a result to make us a competitive state for property taxes,” Dawson says.

Jochum says lawmakers should have a broader discussion that might let local governments “diversify” their tax base ,”to start reducing the pressure of property taxation to support the police, fire, emergency services, snow removal, recreation, all of the things that we rely on our local government to do.”

The biggest chunk of local property taxes supports local public schools and Jochum says lawmakers should consider increasing state funding for public schools to offset those dollars.

Jochum and Dawson made their comments at the winter meeting of the Iowa Taxpayers Association.