26 local government officials back Branstad property tax plan

Written by William Petroski – The Des Moines Register

Gov. Terry Branstad released a list Monday of 26 local government officials from throughout Iowa who have endorsed his $400 million plan to reform the state’s property tax system.

None of the local officials were from Des Moines or Polk County government. Metro-area officials included Dallas County Recorder Chad Airhart, Dallas County Supervisor Kim Chapman, Urbandale City Councilman Creighton Cox and Adel City Councilman Jon McAvoy.

Branstad and House Republicans favor a plan that rolls back rates for all commercial and industrial property owners by 20 percent and slows the tax increases for everyone by reducing the growth of taxable value.

Senate Democrats have proposed a $250 million commercial property tax credit program similar to the homestead credit provided to homeowners and focuses relief on smaller properties and “Main Street” businesses.

Cedar County Treasurer Jeff Kaufmann, a former Republican legislator from Wilton, praised the governor’s plan, saying it would protect local government budgets while reforming the property tax system. Branstad promises to make up for the rollback for business properties by backfilling the difference with state payments to cities, counties and other local governments.

“There is absolutely no reason why we can’t have our cake and eat it, too,” Kaufmann told reporters at the governor’s weekly press briefing.

Airhart, who is the former executive director of the Waukee Area Chamber of Commerce, said the governor’s property tax plan will promote economic development. The current property tax system puts Iowa at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting businesses, he said.

Branstad said that if legislators do nothing, taxpayers will face a $2 billion increase in property taxes over the next eight years with half of the tax hike falling directly on homeowners. He said he’s made a sincere effort to modify his current proposal from his previous plans for property tax relief, adding he had a “very constructive” meeting with Des Moines City Manager Rick Clark to discuss his latest plan.

Under the governor’s proposal, taxable property values could grow by no more than 2 percent annually. That compares to up to 4 percent currently.

The governor said he is hopeful Senate Democrats will embrace his plan after further consideration. However, he expects some Democrats will reject it, hoping for a “big windfall” of additional property tax revenue in the coming years.

Senate Democrats say their plan would reduce commercial property tax rates for four out of five Iowa businesses to a rate that is equal to residential property, representing a 43 percent tax cut. They claim Branstad’s proposal would send tens of millions of dollars into the bank accounts of large, out-of-state corporations.

Here are the 26 local government officials who support Gov. Terry Branstad’s property tax reform proposal, according to a news release issued by the governor’s office on Monday.
1. Chad Airhart, Dallas County Recorder
2. Kim Chapman, Dallas County Supervisor
3. Creighton Cox, Urbandale City Council
4. Jeremy Davis, Ames City Council
5. Dave Drew, Woodbury County Sheriff
6. John Etheredge, Johnson County Supervisor-Elect
7. Brad Gaul, Cedar County Supervisor
8. Jarret Heil, Marshall County Treasurer
9. Harold Higman, Mayor of Akron
10. Don Kass, Plymouth County Supervisor
11. Jeff Kaufmann, Cedar County Supervisor
12. Dick Kirchoff, Mayor of LeMars
13. Jon McAvoy, Adel City Council
14. Gary Nystrom, Boone City Council
15. Alan Ostergren, Muscatine County Attorney
16. Noreen Otto, Newton City Council
17. Dale Petersen, Mayor of Sergeant Bluff
18. Guy Richardson, Greene County Supervisor
19. Adam Schweers, Mayor of Carroll
20. Dick Sievers, Remsen City Council
21. Dawn Smith, Mayor of Durant
22. David E. Steffens, Mayor of Lake Mills
23. Renee Twedt, Story County Treasurer
24. Jayson Vande Hoef, Osceola County Supervisor
25. Tom Walling, Oskaloosa City Councilman
26. Stan Watne, Wright County Supervisor