Letter to the Editor

The numbers don’t add up

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

One longtime legislator in the present majority party said he’d never voted for a tax increase. I am thinking, wow, my property taxes go up every two years so how can that be? Let’s see, sometimes a tax cut is really a tax increase. Let’s take a look at how. Presently there is discussion to cut Iowa taxes by $300 million per year. In 2013 we had a $928 million budget surplus plus another $622 million in reserves. Just four years later under Branstad/Reynolds leadership we had to make $250 million in budget cuts to balance the budget!! In 2013 we cut corporate property taxes from 100 percent assessment to the now 90 percent assessment and at the same time residential property taxes have been increasing from a roll back of around 47 percent in 2009 to 54.4 percent in 2013, 55.63 percent in 2015, 56.94 percent in 2016 and eventually on the way to 60 percent. The Legislature also rolled back taxes on multiresident housing which were 100 percent to 86.25 percent in 2015 to 78.75 percent now, and will drop 3.75 percent per year until they are the same as the individual rollback at 60 percent. This will leave cities and counties with a great deal of lost revenue. Branstad/Reynolds said that cities and counties would lose a combined $17.1 million in fiscal year 2017. Schools would lose $8.8 million. Wrong. Cities and counties lost $84.7 million and schools lost $22.5 million! The state promised they would backfill that loss, but are now talking about eliminating the $150 million/year backfill over five years. How do cities and counties make that up? They will increase residential property taxes, cut services, cut staff or all three. So corporations got a tax decrease, plus many get tax credits as well, apartment complex owners got a huge tax decrease, but residential property owners keep getting increases.

Then to further increase individual property taxes, schools didn’t get enough funding or they had declining enrollment. There is a budget guarantee for schools who lose enrollment and as in Storm Lake’s case a year ago they had to increase the tax asking by $175,000 so that was in a property tax increase. A quadruple or more whammy for the residential property taxpayer. Tax cut for corporation and industry, tax cut for multiresidential, lack of school funding, elimination of the backfill for cities and counties, and raising the roll back to eventually 60 percent. Say again how this legislator never voted for a tax increase?

Phones go unanswered at the Ombudsman’s office which take care of things like nursing home abuse, but we give Apple $209 million to create 50 jobs or $4.16 million per job created.

Numerous tax credits to corporations: 80 percent of the $375.4 million worth of Research and Development credits paid out since 2009 were to companies and individuals who paid NO state income tax. John Deere got $96.2 million, $91.7 million to Rockwell Collins (who is now moving their headquarters out of Cedar Rapids and out of state), and $50.4 million went to Dupont.

Iowa pays out over $1 billion a year in 67 tax credit programs.

How is cutting $300 million a year going to sustain our schools, universities, police, city and county services, courts, and lower residential property taxes when we went from a $928 million dollar surplus to $250 million in the red in four to five years? That does not make any sense. Well, maybe it does to the Koch Brothers and in an election year. Also, lobbyist Drew Klein and the Koch Brothers funded Americans for Prosperity are supporting the large tax cut, much to corporations. They got Kansas to do the same thing with huge tax cuts and it was a disaster.

Foreign fertilizer company Orascom was given $233 million in state and county tax money and the first thing they did was pollute the Mississippi River and pay an $80,000-plus fine. At the same time we’re increasing tuition for Iowa students at the state universities.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has stressed transparency. She will not open the informal Medicaid hearings the state is holding with agencies who serve Medicaid beneficiaries. Medicaid is funded by our tax money so shouldn’t the hearings be open to the public? Oh wait, the privatization of Medicaid has been a disaster, just like it was in Kansas. Complaints have increased each year for the past four years. However, she hired the same person to run Iowa’s Medicaid program that ran the disaster in Kansas. How does that make sense?

SF 2311 eliminates energy efficiency rebates, allows utility companies to raise rates without Iowa Utilities Board approval, allows utilities to discriminate against solar customers by charging additional fees on farmers and businesses that invest in solar, will lead to the loss of more than 20,000 energy efficiency jobs and 800 solar jobs in Iowa. Yup, it passed on 3/8/18.

HF 2372 non-partisan redistricting. It should be good for all counties or no counties. However, it affects only 10 “Democratic” counties. How is that fair? Yup, it passed 3/7/18.

Maybe instead of continued corporate welfare and the failed privatization of Medicaid that has drained our state budget under the Branstad/Reynolds tenure we should explore ways of lowering Iowan’s residential property taxes, lower tuition for Iowa students, increase funding for Law Enforcement and Courts, increase funding for Iowa’s cities and counties, and fund Iowans in general instead of out of state corporations.

SF 475 proposes all high school students must complete a course in financial literacy. Maybe our majority party needs to do the same?

After losing over $1 billion in four to five years, how can Iowa afford to give $300 million in tax cuts, most to corporations again, from a budget already in the red? That would be the kiss of death to education, courts, cities and counties, public services, etc. The numbers, especially for residential property owners and Iowa taxpayers are not adding up.

John Brostad, Storm Lake