|Dear Senate District 48,
– Week 12 –
This Week in the Senate
This, the twelfth week, marked the second major legislative deadline of the year. This is the deadline that narrows down which bills have the support to move forward through both the House and the Senate or to possibly be revisited next year. Since House bills needed to be out of committee in the Senate in order to be considered for the rest of session, most of our work this week was in committee and subcommittee meetings, and we saw fewer visitors in the State House this week.
Carbon Capture Pipelines Legislation at a Standstill
This year has included much conversation around carbon capture pipelines and potential legislation regulating them. Discussion has centered around the issues of eminent domain, ethanol production, and energy production in Iowa. We have heard many passionate views from all over the political spectrum. Unfortunately, the wide diversity of opinions has prevented a consensus from forming around the issue. I do appreciate all who have reached out on this issue with their personal perspectives and thoughtful opinions on both sides of the argument.
Property Assessment Increases Heighten Focus on Property Taxes
Property assessments began arriving in mailboxes across Iowa this week. This is of interest to homeowners primarily because it is a key aspect determining how much property tax is levied on a property.
Newspapers from around the state have published articles about the issue. The Sioux City Journal, Quad City Times, Radio Iowa, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette all ran stories about the shock and dismay from homeowners regarding the increased assessment of their property. One frustrated homeowner remarked, “How does anyone live a normal life when all you do in the morning is wake up and go work to barely live and pay taxes upon taxes upon taxes?”
The news articles report that statewide assessment increases average 20-30 percent this year. Some Iowans saw their property rise in value by as much as $50,000 or $100,000. Property taxes are a difficult tax for many reasons but primarily they are difficult because they are not tied to Iowans’ income or purchases.
Property taxes are tied to the value of a property that an owner may have purchased decades ago. Their income may have changed because they retired or had another life change. A huge increase in valuations could lead to a massive increase in property taxes. Many Iowans fear that outcome because this has happened on more than one occasion. It does not have to be this way.
The problem with property taxes is rarely an unfair valuation. The problem of property tax increases is brought about by local government spending and taxation. Since property taxpayers have not gotten the relief they seek at the local level, they have come to their Iowa legislators looking for relief.
In the coming weeks the Iowa Senate will continue its work on controlling property tax increases. Senate File 356 is one bill that addresses the issue of rising property taxes. It gets the property tax system back to basics by reinstating hard caps, consolidating dozens of levies, and closing loopholes regularly abused by local governments. The Iowa Legislature is asking local governments to align their practice with what state government has done for the last six years: control spending and return savings to the taxpayer in the form of permanent, sustainable tax relief.
If property owners do think their valuation exceeds the market value for their homes, they have an option. Taxpayers can challenge their valuations through property tax appeal boards at the county or city level.
Talk of Taxes Continues
Over the last several years, Senate Republicans have lead the charge on implementing historic tax relief packages for Iowans. We have passed a number of income tax relief bills, legislation to ease the tax burden on farmers and small businesses, and last year we passed both a flat tax for all Iowans and a zero tax on retirement income. On Monday the Senate held a subcommittee on Senate Study Bill 1207. This bill contains a proposed constitutional amendment that will raise the threshold required to pass income tax increases on Iowans. Under this constitutional amendment, it would take a two thirds majority vote in both chambers to raise tax rates or the rate of any new income tax on Iowans. The idea behind this proposal is that it should be more difficult to raise taxes and take more money from hard-working Iowans.
Because it contains a constitutional amendment, if SSB 1207 is passed by both chambers of the Iowa Legislature this year, the proposal would need to be passed again the following general assembly before going before the people of Iowa for a vote. SSB 1207 would be an important protection for the tax policies we have passed over the years and would ensure that taxpayers get to keep more of their hard-earned money.
Iowans Support Legislative Priorities
With just a few weeks to go before the end of the 2023 legislative session, much has already been accomplished this year. We passed school choice for all Iowa students, ensuring parents, no matter how much money they make, can send their children to a school that best fits their needs and prepares them for success. We passed Senate File 181, protecting Iowa taxpayers from a potential $120 million tax increase. We have also passed the first major government reorganization bill in forty years, increasing efficiency in government and saving taxpayer money, while re-aligning priorities and services across state government.
Over the last several weeks, the Des Moines Register has been releasing Iowa Poll results, showing despite continued attacks and extreme rhetoric from the opposition, that Iowans support many of the issues already acted on this legislative session. According to the Register, fifty-four percent of Iowa adults are in favor of banning the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in elementary schools, and fifty-two percent support a ban on experimental surgeries and sex changes on children in Iowa. Senate File 538, a bill that prohibits doctors from performing gender transition procedures on minors, passed the Iowa Senate earlier this month and was signed into law by Governor Reynolds last week. Legislation on the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which included limits on teaching sexual orientation in kindergarten and elementary schools, passed the Iowa Senate last week. Senate File 496 is now ready for debate in the Iowa House.
There are also several bills in the legislative process that will keep moving our state in the right direction. One of these bills is Senate File 542, which balances safety, educational, and developmental concerns, while removing arbitrary and antiquated barriers for young Iowans wishing to work, whether they are looking to make some money for themselves or looking for experience to further their careers. This proposal has support from fifty percent of Iowans.
Visitors This Week
Associate Pastor Zach Hamilton, Pastor Mick Hall, and his son Brayton Hall from Burlington’s Heritage Baptist Church outside the Senate Chamber on Tuesday.