The fox is guarding the chicken coop. This Thursday, the Iowa House passed a purely political bill to weaken the State Auditor (the only Democrat elected state-wide), making his job much harder.
The role of the State Auditor is to look for misuse of taxpayer dollars. The State Auditor is the taxpayers watchdog. Governor Reynolds was upset that Auditor Rob Sands caught her misusing federal funds to use for a now discontinued contract with Workday. According to the highly trusted nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau, this bill puts $12 Billion of taxpayer funds at risk.
In 2019, when Democrat Tom Miller was Attorney General, the Republican controlled legislature voted to reduce his powers. This year, in the governor’s reorganization bill,we gave those powers back, and more after electing a Republican as Attorney General.
This bill has been condemned by experts from around the country. David Walker, former US Comptroller General says “hundreds of millions of dollars for Iowa related to education funding, student loans and health care would be jeopardized by this bill.” The National State Auditors Association says “state auditors should have unfettered access to confidential records to assure that state agencies are following the policies and procedures in accordance with state and federal law”
Ann Marie Hogan, of the Association of Local Government Auditors (AGLA) says that “I have never heard of state legislators taking power away from state auditors in my 20 plus years working for ALGA. This one just destroys the powers of the state auditor. They might as well have eliminated the office.”
Under this bill we can anticipate waste, fraud, and abuse. Iowans elect statewide officials to do their work. Iowans elected a Democrat to the auditor office. We shouldn’t reduce the powers based on the party affiliation of the auditor. This is politics at its worst, a partisan power grab.
Property tax reduction
When the legislative session started in January, Iowans were promised a bill to lower property taxes. I share your concerns that lowering property taxes will tie the hands of local school boards, city councils and boards of supervisors to continue to provide local services. I also share your concerns that property assessments are rising so fast that families will struggle to pay taxes. These are often difficult concerns to balance and in my opinion, of the property tax reduction bills proposed, HF 718 strikes the best (albeit not perfect) balance.
As some Iowans face a large property tax increase due to rising assessments, a bipartisan bill was approved by the Iowa House on Wednesday that would guarantee that no homeowner or farmer will see their tax bill go up by more than 3% next year.
How does the bill reduce my property taxes?
House File 718 limits the tax growth on residential and agricultural properties to 3% annually and limits commercial and industrial properties to 8% annually. These limits are in addition to other property tax limits, such as the rollback applied to the various kinds of property in the state.
Does this bill cut local emergency services or funding for my local public schools?
There is a provision in this bill to provide property tax relief by shifting more school funding to the state and off of local property taxpayers. This shift requires trusting that future legislatures will honor it and I admit, I am a little skeptical. The bill reduces the uniform levy that serves as the basis for school aid and comes from local property taxpayers. Reducing this collection requires a greater amount of state funds to make up the difference.
The bill will also move all bonding votes, such as bonding for a new courthouse or school buildings, to be held at the same time every year. In addition to moving the date, it also requires additional notices to be sent to property owners regarding taxes and upcoming bonding proposals.
This bill does not change the property tax assessment or appeal process. The 3% cap is on your property tax bill, not assessed value or property tax rates.
I support common sense property tax reform that reduces property taxes for Iowans, not corporations and millionaires while making sure our cities are keeping people safe in emergencies and protecting our public schools.
HF 718 now moves to the Senate, which recently advanced its own property tax proposal that differs in many ways from the House proposal.