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Property tax break, redistricting will benefit Iowans


April 24, 2011
By State Senator Tom Rielly (D-Oskaloosa)
We took some significant votes this week that will change the face of Iowa. Today I voted in support of the new redistricting map. The Legislative Services Agency used the latest Census numbers to redraw congressional, state senate and state house districts. It was a fascinating process to be sure, and when all is said and done, it is a fair, nonpartisan way to ensure every citizen continues to have an equal voice in government. You can check out what those districts will look like at The other notable vote I took this week was on a $200 million commercial property tax break that will help grow Iowa’s small businesses and create new economic opportunities. Senate File 522, approved overwhelmingly by the Senate on a bipartisan vote, provides permanent property tax relief with no financial impact on local governments, schools, community colleges and other institutions that rely on property taxes. Commercial property owners are currently taxed on 100 percent of the value of their properties. That means they’re paying more than any other class of property owner. This can hurt community efforts to expand and bring new businesses to Iowa. During the first year of our new tax break, the commercial property tax credit would be worth approximately $600 for property valued at $30,000 or more. For example, the owners of a Main Street building valued at $105,000 and a Wal-Mart building valued at $1.5 million would both receive a $600 credit. As the size of the fund grows, the value of the credit will increase. When fully implemented, it’s estimated that the property tax credit would be worth approximately $4,029 for a property valued at $200,000. I have always said that I support tax cuts as long as they are paid for. To pay for this permanent tax break, we’ll create a Business Property Tax Relief Fund with an annual appropriation of $50 million beginning July 1, 2012. The appropriation will increase by an additional $50 million each year that state revenues grow by at least 4 percent to reach the permanent level of $200 million in tax credits per year. Other proposals intended to solve Iowa’s commercial property tax problem have failed because they shift costs onto homeowners, increase residential property taxes, or cut funding local schools and local services. That was always my concern when I was Mayor of Oskaloosa. Our new Senate proposal does none of that. In fact, small business owners say they like the way this proposal helps level the playing field for them. And city and county officials say this tax break will help in their local economic growth efforts. For years—heck, decades!—we have been talking about doing something about commercial property taxes. Now we’ve delivered. I am a “Main Street” business owner myself. When I walk around the Square in Oskaloosa, it’s businesses like Brown’s Shoe Fit, Smokey Row, Big Ed’s BBQ and Hawkeye Real Estate that will really benefit from this bill. Saints Rest in Grinnell, where I enjoy a good cup of coffee, will also benefit. Lillis Insurance in Williamsburg will benefit. Jaarsma Bakery and Boat’s Home Furnishings in Pella will benefit. We designed this bill to benefit small town, Main Street, home-grown Iowa businesses, and I am happy to say we finally did it.


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