jex-02132020-forum-a01

Rep. Lee Hein, Rep. Andy McKean and Sen. Carrie Koelker addressed happenings in the Iowa Legislature during a forum in Monticello Feb. 7.

Monticello

During a legislative forum at Kirkwood Community College’s Jones Regional Education Center, legislators provided an updated discussion about a possible 1-cent sales tax increase.

Rep. Lee Hein (R-Monticello) chairs the ways and means committee in the house and said that the governor’s Invest in Iowa Act outlined in her Condition of the State Address had just arrived on his desk a couple of days prior.

The expressed goals of the bill are to raise sales tax by 1-cent to help fund mental health services and fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust, while cutting property and income taxes. Three-eighths of the cent would go toward the trust fund.

Hein said the priorities since the measure was passed have changed, as a separate water quality bill was passed a couple of years back that the legislature was trying to work into the funding language and determining how exactly that three-eighths would be divvied up.

By moving mental health funding to be funded by sales tax, Hein said it gave a revenue stream that should grow as the funding needed for mental health continued to grow. By switching the revenue stream, it allowed some relief for property tax owners, some of whom are on fixed incomes, and spreads out the burden onto a wider base, including out of state.

In addressing the regressive nature of sales tax, when compared to property taxes, the increase would add additional exemptions for things like diapers and feminine hygiene products.

“It’s a pretty large bill and there’s a lot of moving parts in it,” he said. “It might be a multi-year type legislation.”

One of the questions Hein said he was still looking for answers on was an assurance that counties would just be able to keep the levies the same and just spend it elsewhere when the goal was tax relief. Both Hein and Rep. Andy McKean said the move was intended as a shifting of tax revenues overall, not a tax hike.

Other topics that the legislators discussed during their session, sponsored by the Jones County Farm Bureau, included: progress on an update to the state’s Bottle Bill, with McKean saying there are multiple proposals circulating around to update redemption practices, and in the senate, Sen. Carrie Koelker said that flood funding for western Iowa was allocated and a bill passed allowing wineries to sell canned cocktails. The latter now goes over to the Iowa House.

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