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Business Leaders Urge Bold Action on Property Taxes; Local Governments Warn of Tax Increases PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 20 January 2012 09:35

Iowa business leaders on January 17 urged lawmakers to be bold and reduce commercial property taxes so the state can be more competitive, while local-government officials warned the loss of revenue would increase tax rates for homeowners.

“This problem we all acknowledge exists,” said longtime Des Moines developer and property manager Jim Conlin, founder and CEO of Conlin Properties – which manages 7,000 residential units and 250,000 square feet of commercial, retail, and industrial space.

“I respect and appreciate your wrestling with it, but we’ve been wrestling with it for 35 years. It’s time to make a decision,” Conlin said. “I think we need a bold approach to create jobs, to move the state forward.”

Iowa’s commercial property taxes are among the highest in the nation. Conlin said the high taxes affect about 80 percent of the population, including people who rent and those who work inside commercial buildings.

No Poison Apple? Terry Branstad’s Education Proposal Aims to Be Palatable to Varied Legislators and Interests. They’re Open to Reform but Leery. PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 06:42

Meaningful education reform is always fraught with political peril. By definition, it challenges the status quo. There are also disparate vested interests – from teacher unions to parents to school administrators, districts, and boards. Depending on the approach, reform can be onerous on schools, teachers, or taxpayers (or all three). And, of course, children and their futures are at stake, and by extension so is the long-term health of the state itself.

So education reform is inherently difficult. Consensus education-reform is even more challenging, but that hasn’t stopped the administration of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad from trying. Even with Democrats controlling the state Senate, the Republican governor is trying to get his 26-element education-reform package through the legislature this year.

The final proposal was unveiled January 6, and the draft legislation followed on January 11. It has three thrusts: “great teachers and leaders,” “high expectations and fair measures,” and “innovation.” In broad terms, the proposal aims to: improve the quality of classroom teachers (increasing selectivity, allowing nontraditional pathways into the teaching profession, and giving school districts more flexibility in personnel decisions); evaluate student progress more consistently and add new requirements – such as third-grade reading proficiency and end-of-course exams for high-school students; and remove barriers to new educational approaches. (See sidebar.)

Jason E. Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education, told the River Cities’ Reader last week that some education-reform efforts add too many requirements without the funding to meet them. Others increase funding without accountability. “With this proposal, we’re trying to get to the right balance of pressures and supports,” he said.

Key Differences Remain on Property-Tax Reform PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Thursday, 12 January 2012 09:44

As a businessman, David Greenspon owns four buildings in the Des Moines metro area and says he pays more than $387,000 a year in property taxes.

“They’re expensive,” said Greenspon, president of Competitive Edge Inc. in Urbandale, which manufactures promotional products. “When you pay a lot of tax, somebody else is paying it. It’s going to cost my customers; it’s going to cost me profits that I could put into hiring people.”

Greenspon said he loves Iowa and has been in business here for 29 years. But he said the high taxes discourage businesses from locating in Iowa when they can find lower taxes elsewhere.

Employees are also affected. Greenspon said he’s had a “relatively tight control on wages” for the past three years and hasn’t been able to give the kind of pay raises, profit-sharing, and 401(k) contributions that he would have liked.

“I’ve got 150-plus employees,” he said. “If you take a quarter-million dollars and give it back to me, I would distribute a big chunk of that in bonus checks. They’d have more money to spend, and their lives would be better.”

Governor Terry Branstad and the Iowa legislature on January 9 renewed efforts to overhaul the state’s property-tax system. If they can do it, it will be the first time in more than 30 years that property taxes have been reformed in the Hawkeye State.

Romney Wins Iowa Caucuses, Eight Votes Ahead of Santorum PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell, Hannah Hess, and Andrew Thomason   
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 12:54

It was an Iowa-caucus night that came down to the wire, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum running neck-and-neck for first place in the first official contest leading up to the Republican presidential nomination.

At 1:36 a.m. Wednesday, the Republican Party of Iowa declared Romney the winner by just eight votes over Santorum, the dark-horse candidate who ran his campaign on a shoestring budget. With all of the state’s 1,774 precincts reporting, Romney received 30,015 votes to Santorum’s 30,007; both men received 25 percent of the vote.

Texas U.S. Representative Ron Paul finished third with 21 percent of the vote, followed by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (13 percent), Texas Governor Rick Perry (10 percent), and Minnesota U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (5 percent).

Since 1972, no candidate who has finished worse than third in Iowa has gone on to win a major-party presidential nomination. Bachmann dropped out of the race on Wednesday after her sixth-place finish.

Social-Conservative Leaders Endorse Santorum, Advocate Team Approach PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 10:43

In a move intended to bring evangelical voters behind a single candidate, Iowa social-conservative leaders on December 20 endorsed former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

“I believe he is ready for a January 3 surprise,” Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader – which opposes gay marriage and abortion – said of Santorum. “Hopefully, this gives him a stamp of credibility that some people are waiting for.”

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