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May 18th, 2012

Senator Behn Explains Property Tax Reform Failures

Iowa Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn explains why efforts to reform property taxes failed during the 2012 legislative session. Below is the email Behn sent Friday afternoon:

2012 was finally supposed to be the year to address our uncompetitive property tax system in Iowa. 

For over three decades, legislators and governors have come and gone and we have heard plenty of rhetoric on this issue. But nothing has happened to curb the massive, burdensome increases that are plaguing home owners and businesses of all sizes.

As a result, Iowa now has property tax rates on par with downtown New York City, the second highest commercial property tax rates and the 16th highest residential rates in the country.

For all the discussion and work that was done this session by Governor Branstad, Senate Republicans and House Republicans, why did nothing happen?

What happened?

Why did Iowa Senate Democrats torpedo authentic, aggressive and permanent property tax reform that had been the subject of negotiations for weeks during the final hours of session?

Here’s the “Inside Scoop” as told in a timeline of property tax events for the session:

February 14, 2012

  • Iowa House passes the largest, most aggressive, permanent and authentic property tax bill in the state’s history on a vote of 59-40.
  • Highlights of the plan include:
    • All Iowans receive tax relief while limiting the shifts of the tax burden
    • Job creators receive a $602 million property tax cut
    • Homeowners receive a $417 million property tax cut
    • Offers a total of $1.2 billion in relief for Iowa property taxpayers
    • Help for Iowa’s locally owned telecommunication companies and cooperatives

February 17, 2012

  • Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn praises the House plan and says, “This plan, passed by the Iowa House and supported by Governor Branstad and Senate Republicans, does not pick winners and losers but instead provides an added emphasis on smaller, Main Street employers.  It creates predictability and stability for all businesses. Reducing property taxes will help hardworking Iowa taxpayers and will put more people back on the path to landing the career of the dreams right here in Iowa.”

May 3, 2012

  • Iowa Senate Democrats hold a press conference to say they finally have a property tax bill, claim it is agreed to with Governor Branstad’s office and try to spin it as the most substantial in state history.
  • Unfortunately, the proposal offers no permanent relief, relies on complicated triggers and hand-written applications and includes NO stop-gaps to prevent the nearly $2 billion in expected property tax increases over the next decade.
  • Their proposal relies heavily on tax credits which results in the redistribution of millions of dollars of hardworking Iowa taxpayers’ income taxes and sales taxes.

May 4, 2012

  • Iowa House Republicans roll out their fourth property tax bill of the last two years to offer, permanent and authentic reform.
  • Governor Branstad’s office issues statement standing with House Republicans saying their proposal is the only one that offers substantial, permanent relief.

May 7, 2012

  • Iowa House Republicans pass their fourth property tax proposal of the past two years with broad and overwhelming bi-partisan support and send the legislation to the Senate for their consideration. The vote in the Iowa House was 71-26.

May 8, 2012

  • Late in the evening, Iowa Senate Democrats bring their proposal to the floor of the Senate on the second to last day of session after failing to do anything during the previous 17 weeks.
  • Iowa Senate Republicans offer the bi-partisan House bill that passed the day before as a strike-all amendment and rigorous debate ensues.
  • All 26 Senate Democrats lock up to defeat the amendment with all Senate Republicans present voting for the bi-partisan House bill.
  • After the amendment is defeated, extended debate then ensues on the Senate Democrat proposal.
  • On the final roll call vote, multiple Senate Democrats jump ship, vote against their caucus leadership and fellow Democrats and defeat their own Senate Democrat proposal in dramatic fashion.

May 9, 2012

Final Overview

Make no mistake, failure to pass property tax reform this year is a major disappointment.

Iowans should be upset.

It is the latest reminder of why elections do have consequences.

Senate Republicans remain optimistic that a common sense property tax proposal can pass next year if the right people are at the table.

Iowa’s best days will be ahead of us if we can continue to re-open our state for job creation and career development.

Authentic, aggressive and permanent tax relief will help make that happen.

As always, I want to hear from you and can be reached by phone at 515-281-3560 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Jerry Behn

Senate Republican Leader

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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