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November 27th, 2009

An Iowa Worth Fighting For: Tax Refrom

jon nDue to the reckless and irresponsible governance of the Culver Administration Iowans now face a billion dollar deficit and massive, massive, debilitating, immenent property tax hikes.

In his letter to author and historian, Samuel Kercheval, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

I am not among those who fear the people.

They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.

We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.

If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers.

Our landholders, too, like theirs, retaining indeed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must wander, like theirs, in foreign countries, and be contented with penury, obscurity, exile, and the glory of the nation.

This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance.

And this is the tendency of all human governments.

On September 10th, 2007, the day before I was elected to the Des Moines School Board, I sat down with J. Michael McKoy. I told him what I would accomplish if elected. There were more than a half dozen items on the list.

On July 3, 2009, I went on Macs World Live and announced I would not seek re-election.

During that show we discussed the list Mac created two years earlier. It is the rare politician who keeps promises. I kept everyone including the one I made when I announced my candidacy, that I would only serve one term.

The Des Moines School District was the most powerful, entrenched and protected division of local government in Iowa’s history.

In less than two years, as a School Board Director, data driven, unrelenting conviction empowered us to route our advesaries and secure more than two dozen reforms.

When I got elected there was total denial our district had a dropout problem despite the empirical data to the contrary. Now it is enjoying an unprecedented focus including adoption of my recommendation the district go door-to-door to bring our students back.

With that same determination we will take back our state!

The era of no growth, big government, tax, tax, tax Iowa must come to an end.

I offer no pretense. The choice before us is fight or flight. And, if you agree with me, Iowa is a place worth fighting for, understand a high price will be paid.

The more time I spend with those whom I love, especially my children, the more I understand why those who have attained what must be defined as wealth choose not to engage in the struggles of our time.

Now when I speak of wealth I do not speak of wordly riches; I speak of true wealth – love, laughter and sacred soul connected moments shared between spouses, siblings, friends, parent and child.

My youngest daughter, Perseverance, age 10, is the athlete and adventurer. I coached her basketball team. I was so proud of my little power forward the way she blocked out, rebounded and cleared space with her elbows.

She has her own newspaper, too. Her best friend worked for her and wasn’t doing her job. I asked her what she was going to do about it? Two days later she fired Ty-ce-era but they stayed friends.

She’s dad’s apprentice.

My eldest daughter, Integrity, age 13, is quite different than her sister. She’s a very serious child, sharp intellect, a sut-tle, cutting wit.

This summer she worked at a friend’s horse ranch. I felt cleaning barns and grooming horses would be a good experience for her.

She didn’t think I liked her anymore when I told her about the job but as she grew to love it, and the horses, she understood the lessons to be learned and we became even better friends.

She’s dad’s conscious.

I believe we will prevail.

But grappling, successfully, with the issues of this age comes with a high price. Time away from our loved ones. Sacrifice of our dreams. And, at times, The loss of so-called friends and colleagues, who shy away from us when we do what’s right but unpopular.

When Governor Ray left office Iowans were paying 3% sales tax. Today many Iowans pay 7%. Following the 1980 census Iowa had six U.S. Representatives. Following the 2010 census Iowa will be reduced to four.

State sanctioned gambling wrecked Iowa’s economy and destroyed countless families and communities. Crime is on the rise. Meth use is on the rise. Unemployment is on the rise. Illegal immigration has gained sanctuary status in Iowa.

Ninety-seven percent of the high schools in Iowa’s Urban Eight School Districts – Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City and Waterloo – are officially failing and 92% of the middle schools are officially failing, too.

According to the Alliance for Education Excellence, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the dropout class of 2006 will cost Iowa two billion dollars.

Iowa’s sojourn to the welfare state is near complete. Are we California or Detroit?

No.

However, huge percentages of our citizenry are sustained by the expenditure of taxes co-lat-ter-o-lized by debt enthusiastically heaped upon the backs of our children, and their children.

For those who fail to grasp the rise of the welfare state in Iowa understand this – you may not have ordered the steak and lobster feast, which you won’t get to eat; you may not have ordered the fine imported wine, which you won’t get to drink;

But you will pay the check!

Gov. Culver’s billion dollar deficit and reckless spending has triggered a massive, debilitating and imminent property tax hike.

Yet Democrats in charge of the legislature and the loyal Republican opposition are signatories to this senseless molestation of Iowa’s taxpayers.

The weight of this unprecedented tax increase will impact all Iowans but the weight of it will be borne disproportionately by the productive citizenry of our state, and, of course, our children.

So is flight the answer?

No.

We take back our state.

An Iowa Worth Fighting for advances a bold, solution oriented ten step vision plan for 21st Century Governance in Iowa and provides a road map enabling Iowa’s honest, hardworking taxpayers to navigate these treacherous times.

In this commentary I speak to two core principles in the plan – reducing government and, thus, spending and then reforming the tax code which includes not only significant tax cuts but tax payer protections.

It is essential we discuss taxes in that order. While the traditional position of Democrats in power of raising taxes to sustain spending is irresponsible and destabilizing the traditional position of Republicans, to cut taxes but sustain spending, is equally irresponsible and destabilizing.

So we first demonstrate a responsible, efficient, effective way to cut government spending and then we argue for a new tax code.

Instead of imposing huge property tax increases state government must reorganize, reduce, re-prioritize and restore operational integrity at the bureaucratic level. This not only includes reducing Iowa’s more than two dozen executive branch departments to fewer than a dozen, it also mandates proper alignment of divisions and bureaus and consolidation of Iowa’s near 180 boards and commissions. It is important to note we not only reorganize but we do advocate elimination of outdated programs and bureaucracies.

This first step will save nearly four hundred million dollars.

Next we reform the Iowa Department of Human Services. While education is the lion in the jungle, most of our state and local taxes are spent on it, human services is the elephant with 40% of all government expenditures in Iowa spent in this area. Our comprehensive reform plan begins with streamlining the bureaucracy and concludes with significantly reducing medicaid costs.

This second step will save nearly 300 million dollars.

Reform of Iowa’s corrections system is essential. While our prisons have become little more than finishing schools for hardening criminals waste in this area rivals the squander within DHS. Infact our recidivism driven system costs Iowa billions in undocumented expenses from the medical care and lost productivity of victims to cost transferences to family caring for the children of the incarcerated.

Yet the real savings for the state come in ending the rampant waste and corruption in corrections based governance.

Iowa Representative Lance Horbach (Republican – Tama) sent me an example of the waste recently. Instead of sending an inmate, housed in Ft. Dodge, across the street to the hospital, in Ft. Dodge also, an ambulance is called in Des Moines that then has to travel to Ft. Dodge to pick up said inmate, then that ambulance transports said inmate to Iowa City, returns to Des Moines empty before before returning to Iowa City to transport said inmate back to Ft. Dodge before returning empty to Des Moines.

The justification?

Some “misguided” bureaucrat, doesn’t want the money coming out of “his” budget.

We call for a restitution based justice system where our prison population pays back victims and repays society by working ten, twelve hour days performing tasks such as rebuilding Iowa’s county roads, cleaning waterways, planting trees, building trails and parks, and operating prison farms where the food served in our corrections institutions is grown and raised by inmates.

This third step not only saves more than 100 million dollars but generates hundreds of millions in labor improving “Iowa’s quality of life infrastructure.”

We call for strict enforcement of illegal immigration laws and the termination of all government services to illegals.

This fourth step not only saves more than 300 million dollars currently expended to serve illegals it also frees up significant dollars spent sustaining Iowa citizens on welfare and unemployment roles as jobs are freed up.

Next we take on Iowa’s bloated education bureaucracy.

Beginning with the Director of the Iowa Department of Education we release up to 10,000 career bureaucrats who have sys-te-ma-ti-cal-ly transformed Iowa’s once legendary public schools – from K-12 to the Regents institutions – into taxpayer financed government run indoctrination centers.

This fifth step saves between 750 million to one billion dollars.

We call for ending the fraudulent practice of funding non-existent and phantom students.

This sixth step, ending this time honored tradition, will save up to 500 hundred million dollars.

Finally, by allowing education funding to follow the child directly to the academic center of the parent’s choosing we shift significant resources from Iowa’s Education Cartel to result based teacher compensation and class size reduction; we attract higher achieving college graduates as an aggregate; we foster true academic entrepreunuership; and we return excellence back to Iowa’s classrooms.

Savings from the above are covered in the previous steps, however, it also cuts into the huge costs of academic failure documented by the Alliance for Education Excellence.

These steps result in at least two billion in savings for state government in Iowa.

Reform of local government is vital, too. Iowa has 99 counties, 947 cities and nearly 400 local education subdivisions including school districts, community colleges and area education associations.

The first step is not to necessarily eliminate the citizen input dynamic of these local governments but a major consolidation of services, especially at the county, city and education level, is essential.

So while we might retain our antiquated 99 county structure we must absolutely consolidate the delivery of services such as courthouse operations into about two to three dozen regional operations. While we might retain 947 cities consolidation of municipal services must be mandated.

State and property tax payers should not be compelled to fund pet priorities of local bureaucrats like a S.W.A.T. unit in a community of 12,000. From technology to payroll units driving down insurance costs collaborations are essential.

Fraud and abuse must also be hunted and eradicated. Local government is where CIETC like corruption thrives; where bids are rigged; where secretaries plunder activity fee funds to sustain their gambling addictions.

In all, our proposed local government reforms yield more than one billion dollars in savings.

In addition to the above measures getting state and local government out of the business of financing enterprise and funding pet causes saves hundreds of millions of dollars.

Effective, timely implementation of our reforms not only saves taxpayers billions annually but they end the pretext for needless property tax hikes and deployment of other government “revenue” generating strategies currently under bi-partisan concoction such as the expansion of gambling into more of Iowa’s 99 counties, expanded gambling in our urban areas that already have gaming and racing operations and renewed commitment to state sanctioned gambling – particularly the return of Touch Play.

The state must get out of the business of picking winners and losers.

Government initiated economic development schemes such as Top Value Supermarket in Des Moines and the movie tax credit debacle have failed again and again. How many jobs did Iowawood create with the purchase of an ipod for the 15 year old progeny of an aspiring movie mogul?

For that reason we call for a shift from the axis of exploitation – casinos, prisons and government spending as economic stimulus to true citizen stimulus and a restoration of Iowa’s free market economy.

To get there we must start with tax reform.

Revamping Iowa’s outdated tax code, not a new bureaucracy, is how we “rebuild Iowa.”

Punishing success does not grow our economy. States are not like nations. If the federal government has an outrageous tax structure successful Americans grit and bare it.

When states impose punitive taxes, especially taxes on excellence and achievement, residents relocate to other states such South Dakota.

Talent is no longer Iowa’s leading export.

Prosperity is.

I visited South Dakota over the Labor Day weekend – from Sioux Falls to Dakota Dunes. I talked to numerous former Iowans displaced by our egregious tax code. The discovery was as disheartening as it was enlightening.

One young woman described how she only paid a 40 dollar vehicle registration fee that would have cost her hundreds in Iowa. A young man described how his dad left our state because taxes were destroying the family business.

Reform priority one – property tax protection. We advocate locking in residential and agricultural property taxes at 1% of the property’s purchase price.

This measure first stabilizes and then ignites the resettlement of Iowa’s urban and rural communities and it re-enforces our commitment to Iowa’s agrarian economy.

We call for commercial property taxes to be locked in at 1% of the purchase price for ten years. In year ten a new assessment is determined and then over the next five years the increase is phased in in 20% increments until year 15 when the owner pays 100% of the new assessment. Then the cycle starts anew.

This measure protects Iowa’s job creation engine and restores much of our state’s free market economy. What it also does, however, is ends the locust like property management system in Iowa.

Under our current tax code investing in urban and rural communities experiencing blight and decay is punitive. As soon as dollars are invested in improving property assessors and local governments punish the investors. Because of this entire areas of urban and rural Iowa are collapsing in our midst.

Our proposal changes that and rewards investment in areas where infrastructure – roads, sewers, power, etc…already exists and checks our rampant and counter-productive urban sprawl industry.

Our property tax reform plan also immunizes Iowans – urban, rural, the business class – against the randomness of assessors and the extravagance of local governments unwilling to live within their means.

Next we phase out the state corporate tax over four years with a zero tax option rider introduced year one.

This means for every dollar a business re-invests directly into their Iowa operation or for every dollar they spend purchasing goods and services from an Iowa business they deduct a dollar from their state tax liability until their tax bill zeroes out.

We call for repeal of the permanent penny tax and restoration of the local option, including expanding tax use options. Currently school districts are forced to spend money on buying and building even when they have more urgent matters such as the need for key staff like librarians.

Because unreasonable limits have been placed on education fund usages we recently witnessed the Des Moines School District pursue purchase of millions in property the same night they discussed cutting 17.5 million dollars in student based services.

We see other districts, completely renovated, left with few options under the current system except to begin construction on things like multi-million dollar stadiums because they can do nothing else with those funds, including improving remediation or enhanced academic opportunities to our very bright, very bored oft neglected and rapidly expanding student population.

From there propose rolling back our state’s most regressive tax – the sales tax to four, if not, three percent, over the next four years.

We propose lowering the top income tax bracket to 6% and cap taxation of hourly wages at 40 hours per week. This particularly benefits Iowans working overtime such as factory workers and nurses or single moms working two and three jobs who need that money much more than our state’s bureaucracies.

We preserve federal deductability.

We also advocate a more responsible use of tax credits. Instead of government picking winners and losers citizens are eligible for tax credits for investing in Iowa based business development and job creation.

Under our proposal up to 15% of the individual tax bill could be used to invest in an Iowa based business. And, for every dollar invested a dollar is deducted from the Iowan’s individual income tax bill.

This measure frees up potentially six hundred to seven hundred millin dollars in debt free capital for small businesses across the state and begins the creation of wealth and a new class of capitalist from amongst Iowa’s citizenry – a foundation of our economic empowerment strategy.

Health tax credits are another pillar. We leverage the insurance premium tax, which currently generates just under 125 million annually, to encourage insurance companies to reward their customers for enrolling in health, fitness and weight loss programs. We also would make enrollment in health, fitness and nutritional weight loss programs, like Farrell’s, tax deductible.

Bottom line: The answer to the so-called healthcare crisis is not more government, nor unfunded mandates to already overburdened employers but the fighting of lifestyle and obesity induced disease.

Our ten point economic plan includes a number of key measures including transforming our current anti-business climate into a pro-business culture; introduction of an Iowa Exchange to foster a vibrant free market Iowa; restoration of community capitalism by encouraging the expansion of credit unions, cooperatives, smart spending/smart savings initiatives and credit reparation programs.

We call for a major campaign to retain our state’s highest achieving students. Lisa Aherns was national president of Future Farmers of America and served on the Iowa Board of Regents while attending ISU. But when it came time for her to plan a future she left our state citing the lack of opportunity.

We must be as zealous in keeping students like Lisa in this state as we are in keeping athletes like Harrison Barnes here.

An aggressive youth development and retention strategy is essential including ending minimum wage for teens – learning to work, earning family supplemental income is good for them.

It is good for the future of our economy.

A renewed emphasis on vocational and technical education is a essential, too. Between the new penny tax, the road fund, federal and state infrastructure expenditures for things like bridge and building maintenance and repair, bonding projects and projected private development, one quarter trillion dollars in construction and infrastructure projects are slated over the next 30 years.

Yet the skilled Iowa laborer is an endangered spieces and without a skilled and competent labor force those rather sizable expenditures flow out of this state’s economy.

Since August I have travelled 10,000 miles across this state.

Iowans are a remarkable, decent, hardworking people of character and integrity. I am honored to be a lifelong Iowan.

From the Mississippi to the Missouri – from Lyon to Lee I have seen our 99 counties up close.

Iowans are a God fearing people; we love America; we love family. We ought never apologize for being people of faith, for being patriots and for knowing family is the foundation of a just and moral society, not government.

Still, Iowans have placed their trust in career bureaucrats, faithless politicians and party leaders loyal only to their private ambitions. And, they have betrayed our trust again, and again and again.

It is unfortunate but our state’s political class has very limited priorities: Get elected; Keep power; Attack the opposition; Fend off attacks; Pander to Croonies; and, on the rare occasion, Acknowledge Real Challenges Exist.

Solutions just are not being offered.

From this day forth, whether candidates run for school board, city council or aspire to Terrace Hill, demand real agendas and real solutions with specificity and detail.

The time has come to stop the platitudes. To reject the pandering. To no longer accept political personality as public character. And to demand they lay out exactly what they propose to do.

Not for their party. Not for their contributors. But for Iowa.

In his letter to Kercheval Jefferson stated…

This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance.

And this is the tendency of all human governments.

A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, and to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering.

Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia – war of all against all – which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man.

And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

The choice before us is simple – fight or flight.

Either we retake ground from the mismanagers and hold them to account or pack our bags and exodus this state before the public extravagance of Iowa’s political class destroys our private fortunes, too.

You would not be here, on this site, if you did not care.

You would not be here, reading this commentary, if you did not want prosperity restored to our Iowa.

You would not be here, seeking ideas, answers and solutions, if you did not want to scale back wasteful government and extreme, excessive taxation.

You would not be here, on IowaRepublican.com, if you did not want our children and their children to inherit an Iowa they will be proud to live in.

Answer our call!

Join our fight!

We need your might, added to ours!

We will prevail!

And, together

We will restore

“An Iowa Worth Fighting For!”

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Jonathan Narcisse is a former member of the Des Moines School Board and with “AnIowaWorthFightingFor.com.”

Photo by Dave Davidson


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