The Courtney Report


The best way to grow Iowa’s middle class is to help Main Street businesses and other employers grow. I’m working on a commercial property tax cut aimed at doing just that. This “Main Street Tax Cut” is an expanded version of the only commercial property tax cut proposal to pass a chamber of the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Commercial property owners currently pay taxes on 100 percent of the assessed value of their property. That’s about twice what residential property owners pay.

I’m working on a plan to provide a 40 percent commercial property tax cut for 80 percent of Iowa commercial properties. Most of the benefit goes to our local small business owners, the biggest job creators in Iowa communities. And it is accomplished without increasing taxes on residential property owners or harming local schools and public services.

The “Main Street Tax Cut” compares favorably with Governor Branstad’s proposal of a 20 percent across-the-board cut in commercial property taxes.

The governor’s plan costs much more but provides less property tax relief to almost all Iowa commercial property owners. That’s because it pours tens of millions of dollars into the bank accounts of large out-of-state corporations.

Under the Main Street Tax Cut, we’d put $50 million a year into a new Business Property Tax Relief Fund beginning July 1, 2014. The permanent, on- going appropriation will grow by $50 million each year that the state’s revenue increases by at least 4 percent. Once the $250 million goal is reached, the annual investment will be maintained.

Over the years, Iowa’s local property tax system has become a serious barrier to creating jobs and bringing new businesses to the state. The Main Street Tax Cut does not reduce commercial property taxes by shifting the burden to residential property owners or by cutting funding to local schools. State dollars will replace every property tax dollar that used to go to schools, local governments and community colleges. That means this plan does not force an increase in residential property taxes.

Local business owners and community leaders have made it clear that they wholeheartedly supported a bold effort to cut commercial property taxes for every business, help small businesses the most and grow Iowa’s middle class.

March Of Dimes

March of Dimes believes all newborns should be tested for congenital heart disease before leaving the hospital after they are born. Currently, 117 of Iowa’s 134 hospitals already provide this simple, low cost, noninvasive test. On February 12, I met with March of Dimes advocates Jessica Streit of Des Moines and her daughter, Neelie.

I believe Iowa’s public universities are some of the best in the country. They help expand Iowa’s middle class, grow our economy, provide an excellent education to our students and build partnerships that improve communities in every corner of the state. The investment we make in our universities and our students is an investment in a prosperous Iowa future.

Graduates of Iowa’s public universities make up a significant percentage of our state’s working professionals. Physicians trained at the University of Iowa work in 88 Iowa counties; pharmacists in 94 counties; engineers in 91; dentists in 92; with nurses, lawyers and educators in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties.

At Iowa State University, 70 percent of the 2011 graduates from the College of Human Sciences accepted jobs in Iowa. ISU Veterinary Medicine graduates account for nearly 80 percent of the state’s practicing veterinarians. The University of Northern Iowa has educated 11,200 of the teachers in Iowa and graduates more than 500 teachers each year. Twenty-five percent of Iowa school administrators went to UNI.

Providing adequate funding to our universities helps more students get the training and education they want and find a good job, without being saddled with a mountain of debt. A high-quality, affordable college education should be an option for every qualified Iowa student. That’s why the presidents of the Universities of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa are looking to freeze student tuition.

Last year, the Legislature worked together to provide an additional $23 million to keep Iowa tuition increases far below the national average of 7 percent for in-state undergraduate students. This year, the universities say they can freeze in-state undergraduate tuition for next year if the Legislature can provide an additional $21 million.

If Iowa wants to be a player in the world economy, we must have modern, efficient, safe railroads. As with other parts of Iowa’s transportation system, our railways need improvement.

By investing about $20 million in state funds, we can give Iowa railroads a $100 million upgrade. The vast majority of trains that will travel on these improved rails—travelling at faster speeds with improved safety—will be freight trains.

This investment will greatly increase the amount of freight Iowa can handle, and that will help every business in the state. The products of Iowa farmers and Iowa factories will be more accessible, more competitive and more valuable in the world economy. That goes for ethanol, pork, automobiles, corn, soybeans, tractors, military equipment, oil, wind turbines. Even UPS and Fed Ex packages will ship faster.

If we are serious about building a 21st century economy in this state, investing in Iowa’s railroads is a must. View video from a recent news conference on this topic.

Community grants for beautification
Through April 1, Keep Iowa Beautiful is accepting applications for its 2013 Community Beautification Grant Program. Any public or nonprofit organization in a community of less than 5,000 residents may apply. Eligible projects include public awareness efforts, recycling, litter reduction, public nuisance abatement, expanding green spaces, painting and fix-up, and general landscaping. Grant applications and more information are available here:

Hosts needed for state park campgrounds
Do you want to spend the summer camping in an Iowa state park? Become a campground host.

Campground hosts receive free camping while working with state parks staff by assisting campers, explaining park rules, and helping with registration, park cleaning and light maintenance. Hosts are needed for the season at Brushy Creek, Dolliver, Geode, Nine Eagles, Lake Ahquabi, Lake Keomah and Lake Wapello. If an entire season is too much, Backbone State Park is looking for a host for September and October. For an application and further information, go to here or call 515-242-5704.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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