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The Iowa legislature has finished week 16, which was the scheduled end to the session. But a lot remains to be done. Most of what’s left will be negotiated in conference committees, and we’ll have to see how quickly the differences can be resolved.
We continue to work for much-needed comprehensive property tax reform in Iowa. The current tax system is burdensome and one of the most complex in the nation; however, when the Iowa Senate had an opportunity to pass true property tax reform two weeks ago, the majority party refused to take up a plan that would help protect Iowa homeowners and commercial property owners. Instead, they passed a bill that would only be enacted when a state revenue threshold is achieved, helping very few Iowans.
Over the past decade, residential property taxes grew to $100 million annually in Iowa. If no changes are made to adjust the calculation of residential property taxes, it is estimated that between Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2022, residential property taxes will grow annually by $181 million. With these growing and out-of-control increases, it has been projected that cities and counties will receive historic annual revenue increases for the foreseeable future.
Senate Republicans offered amendments to SF 295, the Small Business Property Tax Credit bill. The amendments would have locked down the revaluation growth in the assessed value on residential and agricultural property. Again, the Senate majority refused to debate the amendments; rather, they chose to enact conditional tax credits that will help very few Iowans. Iowa property taxpayers deserve more than lip service to the high growth of property tax projected for the next few years. I remain hopeful we can still achieve progress in property tax reduction.
The relationship between Iowa’s rural landowners and the general public has always been a healthy one. Iowa farmers have welcomed their urban friends onto their land for fishing, hunting and other recreational activities at no cost. Farmers have also always welcomed field trips from school children as a way of showing the safety and techniques of food production, and children have always been excited to go on that type of field trip. For many years those rural property owners have been protected from unnecessary lawsuits by Iowa code. Last year the Iowa Supreme Court put all of that in jeopardy in the case of Sallee v. Stewart, when the court held that the Iowa code did not limit the liability of the farmer when a chaperone was injured on a school field trip to the farm. The unfortunate result of that court ruling is that now farmers can only protect themselves from liability by restricting such visits on their farm. Legislative remedies for this problem were advanced in both the Iowa House and the Senate this year, but those remedies were not advanced out of the respective Judiciary committees by the funnel deadlines.
I offered an amendment to the standings bill this week that would restore those liability protections but the amendment failed, again on a party line vote. It’s my hope that we can still address this problem with a leadership bill (exempt from the funnel deadlines) yet this year. I have encouraged the leadership from both parties to work to solve this impasse, because it’s my belief that this is harmful to all Iowans.
Please continue to contact me if you wish to weigh in on the issues. That is an important part of the process.
Senator Ken Rozenboom
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