Iowa House Democrats were bound and determined late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning to shift debate away from property tax transparency and instead turned Senate File 634 into a bill that would attack IPERS.
An amendment was offered by Democrats in the House to address the issue. It failed by a slim margin.
Debate did eventually get back on the bill and Representative Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City) highlighted some of the inconsistencies within the Democrat talking points throughout the debate.
“First off, we heard about lobbyist declarations tonight and where the lobby stands on this issue,” he said. “But there’s been one group of people that have been completely omitted from this debate and I was really hoping it’d be brought up so I’m going to stand up on the floor and I’m going to bring them up and that is the property taxpayers of Iowa. Nobody has talked about them.”
Wheeler said he’d be “shocked” if any member of the House could swear they hadn’t been approached by constituents with property tax concerns.
During debate the Democrats often said the bill did not do anything. But either before that statement or after it, another Democrat would say the bill is intended to destroy rural communities.
“My question I guess is if the bill does nothing, how is it going to hurt our local communities,” Wheeler asked. “I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer for that.”
Wheeler then turned his attention to the debate about IPERS and pointed out that in the Senate, just hours earlier, Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) voted in favor of the legislation. Bisignano is a member of the public retirement systems committee. Two minority members sit on the committee.
“This member also wrote a pretty heavy letter to the editor or newsletter that went into the Des Moines Register earlier this year that attacked members of the majority party for wanting to go after IPERS,” Wheeler said. “And it was pretty vicious. He took a very strong stand in favor of IPERS.
“So I guess my question to the body is, if this bill does in fact affect IPERS, why would a minority party member of the public retirement systems committee who has come out in massive defense of IPERS vote for this bill in the Senate? That is quite something that I can’t wrap my head around. But it is actually quite easy to figure out and that is because Mr. Speaker, this bill does absolutely nothing to IPERS. We have held our promises to the people of Iowa and we will continue to do so. We’ve also held our promises to the property taxpayers of Iowa and that’s exactly what this bill does.”
Democrats maintained throughout the debate that IPERS would be threatened under the legislation. IPERS, though, clarified with a tweet on Twitter on Thursday.
“Regarding recently passed property tax bill, SF 634: This bill does not alter the employer’s obligation to pay the employer portion of IPERS’ contributions as established annually under Iowa Code Section 97B.11. This bill does not affect a member’s or retiree’s pension.”