Property Tax Reform – This bill was brought forward because we heard from citizens concerned about the increase in their property taxes when their income was not increasing to cover those costs. Statistics bear this out: Since 2000 total property tax revenue has increased over 100%. Over that same time, population growth and inflation have combined to increase by 56% and the COLA provided to Social Security beneficiaries has only increased by 46%.
The property tax reform bill in its final form is designed to help make clearer to taxpayers any changes in the levy rate, any increases in the budget, and any increase in property taxes when a city or a county sets the levy and the budget.
First an “effective levy rate” will be computed. This is done by using the total of the new property tax assessments to figure what the “effective levy rate” would be to bring in the same amount of tax revenue as the prior year. So if property tax assessments go up, the “effective levy rate” would go down to bring in the same amount of tax revenue as the prior year.
A city or county can then decide if the “effective levy rate” is the correct amount of tax to levy (which would keep the budget the same as the prior year) or if a higher or lower rate is necessary. If the proposed levy a city or county decides on brings in tax revenue that is an increase of 2% in the budget or less over the previous year, a resolution by a majority of the city council or county supervisors is needed to pass that levy. If the proposed levy brings in tax revenue that is an increase of more than 2% in the budget over the previous year, a resolution by 2/3 majority is needed to pass that levy.
After the resolution on the new levies has passed, the local government needs to publish notice of the budget they intend to pass and have a hearing on that budget. They can then pass a resolution for their budget as they do in current law. All of the information from the notices needs to be published on all local government websites and social media sites.
Because of the new process, the date to certify budgets is moved from March 15 to March 31. There is still a process in current law to object to a budget and the notice of the budget hearing will include information on how to do that.
This reform does not change IPERS, or any retirement or benefits levy. It does not alter the employers’ obligation to pay the employer portion of IPERS’ contributions as established annually under Iowa law.
Empower Rural Iowa – A governor’s initiative, this bill provides for the broadband grant program in rural areas, with $5 million appropriated and provides additional funding for the Workforce Housing Tax Incentive program, taking the program cap from $20 million to $25 million with the amount for rural cities going from $5 million to $10 million. An additional $10 million is provided for workforce housing tax credit incentives for housing projects located in disaster-designated counties (as a result of the 2019 flooding).
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit – Some changes have been made to this program but most importantly, the $6 million previously available for this program has been increased to $12 million.
Law Enforcement Appropriations – Funds were provided to hire 4 or 5 more Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agents and 10 new highway patrolmen for the Iowa State Patrol.
Geothermal Heat Pump Tax Credit – This reinstates the geothermal heat pump tax credit that was eliminated in last year’s tax reform bill.
Flood Recovery – $15 million was appropriated for FY 19 to help cities and counties recover from the spring flooding along the Missouri River.
Child Care Deduction – This increased the income limit for the child care deduction from $45,000 to $90,000, passed to help young families.
Judicial Nomination Reform – This proposal which I wrote about earlier in the session was modified to get the necessary votes for passage in the House. Even though the modification made the bill less strong than I wanted it to be, I still believe there is a chance it can help make our courts better reflect the views of Iowans rather than the views of the left. It removes the Supreme Court justice from the state judicial nominating commission and provides the governor with one additional appointment to the commission. This makes her total appointments 9. The Iowa bar has 8 appointments. The 17 commissioners elect their chair instead of the chair being the longest-serving Iowa Supreme Court justice. Each of the governor’s appointees serves subject to the approval of the Iowa Senate. The Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court is elected by the justices to serve a 2-year term instead of an 8-year term. This will help ensure that the Chief Justice will accurately reflect the will and priorities of the current make-up of the court as opposed to what those priorities might have been years ago when different people were on the court. There were other provisions to make the procedures of the district judicial commissions more uniform.
Full Defunding of Abortion Providers – This provision says abortion providers are excluded from being eligible for Title X federal family planning funds and federal grants for teaching sex education in schools. The reason for this is because even though this is federal money, the federal government does allow the state some choice in contract providers. There is a clear conflict of interest when abortion providers are teaching sex education to our youth. They have no financial incentive to reduce sexual involvement of teens or reduce teen pregnancy or reduce abortions. Without teens being sexually involved they cannot make money. It is in their best financial interest for teens to be sexually active. These are obviously not the goals for Iowa’s families for our youth. So with this move, we have cut out abortion providers; this also cuts the final tie the state has in partnership with abortion businesses.
Medicaid Sex Change Surgeries – This was passed to reverse an Iowa Supreme Court decision that under Iowa Civil Rights law, the state is required to have Medicaid pay for sex change surgeries. We made an exception to Iowa Civil Rights law that states Medicaid is not required to pay for these surgeries.