Governor Terry Branstad has made “reforming” (cutting) the property taxes paid by Iowa businesses a top priority since taking office. The good news is that his latest proposal to accomplish that goal seems to have fallen short; unfortunately, this one was coupled with an increase in the state’s earned income tax credit (EITC), so it also fell by the wayside.
Last year we explained that Branstad’s first proposal would have allowed businesses to shelter a full 40 percent of their property’s value from the property tax (by assessing commercial property at only 60 percent of its actual value for tax purposes). The plan was estimated to cost as much as $500 million annually, but it ultimately failed.
On Tuesday, a Senate bill which offered a targeted property tax credit aimed at small businesses (and in some cases offering more relief to businesses than the Governor’s original proposal) was also narrowly voted down, 24-23. The Senate refused to even vote on a more costly tax cut proposal that passed the House, which would have assessed commercial property taxes at 90 percent of their actual value for tax purposes, taking effect over five years. Reports point to effective lobbying by cities and towns whose leaders came out against drastic cuts to business property taxes. One county, for example, stood to lose $7.3 million in just one year.
Governor Branstad is not giving up, though, and called on Iowans to vote out any legislator who voted against these business tax cuts. For now, it appears that counties and cities can breathe a sigh of relief. The same is not true, however, for the working poor who rely on the EITC to fill gaps in their household budgets; any increase in their tax credit won’t come around again until next year, either.