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Governor Branstad’s on Track With Property Tax and Tort Reform

Governor Terry Branstad delivered his Condition of the State Address for 2013.  You watch his speech below.

 

You can read the entire transcript here.

My thoughts:

Overall it was a good, positive address by Governor Branstad.  He is right to brag on Iowa’s current fiscal status.  Seeing our spending go below our revenues is always something to celebrate.  Also we have a low unemployment rate at 4.9%.  Governor Branstad’s sound budgeting practices and efforts in job creation in Iowa should be credited.

I also appreciate his call to return “a large portion” of the current tax surplus to the taxpayers of Iowa.  He noted they are the ones “who made that surplus possible in the first place.”  Very true… I’ll be even happier if that “large portion” ends up being all of the surplus, but it is a start.

Two things I really liked with his 2013 vision.

1. Property tax reform.

Governor Branstad said:

When we consider strategies for stimulating our economy to encourage job creation we need to look to find ways to lower the cost of doing business in this state.

This will improve our ability to compete, putting more dollars into the hands of consumers to purchase Iowa goods and services.

Both of these objectives can be accomplished by returning a significant portion of our state’s budget surplus to the taxpayers who made that surplus possible in the first place.

In this budget, I am proposing a significant plan to reform our property tax system to make it competitive and provide nearly $400 million in actual property tax relief to Iowa’s hardworking taxpayers.

The principles guiding our property tax plan are simple.

  • Permanent property tax relief.
  • No shift of the tax burden between classes of property
  • And property tax reduction for all classes of property.

First, the budget fully funds the Homestead Tax Credit and the Elderly and Disabled Tax Credit in fiscal year 2014 with an additional appropriation of $33 million.

Last year we made a down payment on this funding gap and this year we will close that gap once and for all.

Second, I will propose legislation to permanently change the school finance formula so that “allowable growth” will be replaced by 100% state aid.

No longer will the school aid formula trigger automatic increases in local property taxes.

Third, I will bring forward legislation designed to stop any future tax shifts between classes of property by tying the classes together in one combined rollback, correcting a mistake made when the original rollback formula was implemented back in the 1970s.

This legislation will take the current four percent cap on valuation growth for residential property and agricultural land, cut it in half to two percent, and apply it to all classes of property.

If left unchecked, current law will allow property taxes to grow by over two billion dollars in the next eight years and half of the increase will fall directly on Iowa homeowners. I find that prospect terrifying and ask you to work with me to ensure property taxpayers are protected from this unprecedented property tax increase.

My plan permanently reduces commercial and industrial property tax values by 20% over a four year period and provides direct funding for local governments to replace 100% of the property tax revenue.

My biennial budget provides the resources to make this possible and my five year budget projection accounts for the nearly 400 million dollars in direct property tax relief.

Small businesses in Iowa have paid some of the highest property tax rates in the nation for far too long. These high taxes mean less money for businesses to hire new employees or provide salary increases to their current employees.

The businesses pay the taxes yes, but it is our middle class families who truly feel the pain.

And it is those same middle class families who will reap the benefits of a competitive property tax structure that makes it easier for us to recruit, retain, and grow those companies that create the new jobs our families need.

Our plan to reform and reduce property taxes is an investment in Iowa families and small businesses, but not at the expense of Iowa’s local governments.

Property tax reform is necessary in Iowa for us to be more competitive in attracting businesses to our state.  We also need income tax relief as well, but I applaud any vision that works towards decreasing the tax burden of Iowans.

2.  Medical Malpractice Tort Reform.

Governor Branstad said:

My third proposal is for us to come together and pass a Certificate of Merit law and a cap on non-economic damages.

Keeping doctors in Iowa requires we make our state a place that is friendly to those who practice medicine.

The first oath taken by a doctor is to do no harm.  No group of people is more committed to protecting patients than our Iowa doctors.

Frivolous lawsuits are harming our ability to recruit and retain doctors.

A Certificate of Merit simply requires a medical expert review the facts of a case when a lawsuit is filed and verify that the injuries could have come from substandard care. This lets real claims move forward and takes the weight of bad claims off the health care and judicial systems.

This should be common sense and I’m glad that Governor Branstad has made this a priority.  I hope that both of these items make it to the Governor’s desk to sign.


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