Business Groups Push Tax Relief/Reform

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa – Business leaders from Iowa's largest communities expressed optimism Wednesday that the 2013 legislative session will produce meaningful and significant tax relief that will aid business growth and job creation.

Alliance members said they will again push for reductions in rates for commercial and industrial property and support better equity among all property classes in Iowa. They also supported efforts to simplify and reduce corporate income taxes and to flatten and streamline the personal income tax code.

Gov. Terry Branstad told chamber members that Iowans expect him and the split-control Legislature to work together to resolve the property tax issue next session.

"We need to get it done," he said.

After his speech, Branstad told reporters "we'd like to give the largest property tax reduction in state history." To that end, he said he wanted to see a property tax solution that is permanent, does not shift tax burdens to other classes and improves Iowa's competitive position. He said he would be open to a compromise whereby the state would help local governments by fully funding tax credits and replacing potential revenue that might be lost as commercial and industrial property tax rates are gradually lowered.

That message resonated with alliance members representing chambers and economic development organizations in Ames, Burlington/West Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Marshalltown, Mason City, Muscatine, the Quad Cities, Sioux City, and Waterloo/Cedar Falls. They said the 2013 legislative session offers great potential for creating an environment conducive to economic growth in Iowa.

"The potential for Iowa to grow in 2013 and beyond is strong. Iowa's finances are among the most solid in the nation. The economic development structure for the State of Iowa has been updated. And, national attention has highlighted Iowa's workforce strengths and relative resilience during the national economic downturn," said Steve Dust, President of the Iowa Chamber Alliance and President and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber.

"However, Iowa policy makers have not acted on important policy matters in the past. For example, failure to act on Commercial and Industrial property tax reform has slowed economic growth. Adequate resources have not been allocated for economic development, to keep Iowa competitive with other states and encourage job creation. It's time to address these issues in a meaningful way for economic growth."

Alliance members said that growth can be achieved with competitive and fair taxes, responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars, necessary investment in the full spectrum of infrastructure, forward-looking programs that incentivize entrepreneurship and attract investment and a predictable and responsive regulatory environment.

The non-partisan coalition representing 16 chambers of commerce and economic development organizations statewide also supported a variety of tax credits to retain, grow, and attract investments in the state, including restoration of the $185 million cap on economic development tax credits. The alliance also would support a state gas tax increase of 10-15 cents a gallon if the revenue generated by fuel taxes is distributed 60 percent to the state and 20 percent each for cities and counties to make transportation upgrades.

Alliance members also expressed concern that there is a significant gap between the skills sought by Iowa employers now and the skills and knowledge possessed by our workforce and the gap will only widen if action is not taken to equip workers with needed skills via career readiness programs, expand Iowa's STEM skills initiatives in K-12 education, and provide substantive education reform focused on recruiting and retaining talented educators, establishing measurable high expectations, fostering innovation in our schools and encouraging parental involvement.

For more information about the alliance's positions and legislative agenda, please visit the Web site at www.iowachamberalliance.com
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