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Property tax reform, fund balance priorities of Iowa Farm Bureau

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 11:33 a.m. CDT

Farm Bureau members say Iowa’s unprecedented property tax growth impacts all Iowans.  

“Property taxes have increased by over $2 billion since the year 2000, an increase of over 75 percent,” IFBF president Craig Hill said. “Farm Bureau members believe the primary objective of property tax reform should be to reduce the property tax burden on all classes of property. As lawmakers address issues such as commercial property tax reform, Iowans need to be assured that any reform affecting one class of property would not bring a shift to other classes of property. In addition, reasonable property tax growth limitations are needed so property tax collections do not continue to outpace the economy and family wages.”

Controlling growth of property taxes is just one of several priorities named by IFBF.  Members also support using the state’s one-time ending fund balance, which will total hundreds of millions of dollars on one-time expenditures such as property tax relief or infrastructure, as opposed to being used for ongoing expenses.  

“We’re at the point where more and more local governments are turning to bonding as an alternative source of revenue to pay for deteriorating rural roads. Last year alone, rural property owners paid over $140 million in property taxes to their local roads and bridges,” Hill said.

IFBF policy calls for an increase in the fuel tax to bring additional revenue for road improvements.

“Iowa’s fuel tax hasn’t been increased since 1989 and would ensure that users of the roads, including out-of-state motorists, are paying directly for the infrastructure repairs,” Hill said. “A user fee is definitely the most equitable and fair method of funding.”

Another ongoing priority for IFBF is conservation and water quality. The recently-unveiled Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science-based plan, which helps farmers and watershed stakeholders reduce or better control nutrient runoff and pollution.  

Developed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University researchers, the plan offers many options to improve targeted, voluntary watershed improvements. Under the plan, IDALS will work with farmers to maintain agricultural productivity, protect natural resources and reduce nutrient losses, and the IDNR would work with major cities and industries to reduce nutrient discharges into Iowa’s waters.

“This technology-based, solutions approach will be more effective than a one-size-fits-all type of program that would result from regulations,” Hill said.

Farm Bureau members will also work to secure adequate funding to meet the demand of conservation programs. Meanwhile, Hill said the organization will continue to advocate for a long-term commitment to agricultural research at Iowa State University.

“We support a proposed $7.5 million appropriation for bioscience research and development at ISU, which will leverage federal and private research investments and create more collaborative opportunities involving university researchers, private companies and local farmers and businesses,” he said.

Regulatory reform is also a continued IFBF legislative priority, since its position is that “unwarranted or excessive regulations add unnecessary costs to farming, which impact food costs for all.” IFBF policy also calls for limiting the rule-making authority of state agencies, appointed boards and commissions.