In the 2011 session of the Iowa Legislature that began last week in Des Moines, one of the key issues to be discussed this year will be where to cut state spending and what to do about property taxes.
Leaders of the Iowa Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization, say their key priorities will be how to stabilize the state's budget to foster sustainable economic growth and to protect the state's property taxpayers.
"It will be critical that the Iowa Legislature establishes an affordable budget that protects our priorities, does not use one-time sources of funding to pay for ongoing expenses and protects property taxpayers," says Craig Lang, Iowa Farm Bureau president. "Restoring fiscal responsibility and sustainability to our state will help build a solid economic foundation for all Iowans."
Some of the other 2011 priorities of Farm Bureau for the 2011 legislative session include:
• Protecting the agricultural productivity formula that's used in determining property taxes
• Reforming Iowa's regulatory process by strengthening legislative oversight and control of the rule-making process
• Supporting efforts to transition agricultural regulatory responsibilities and programs from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
• Securing additional funding for soil conservation and water quality improvement programs
• Preventing any additional regulations on Iowa's tile drainage system.
The 2011 general session of the Iowa Legislature, which began January 10, is expected to last into April.
The elections last November brought widespread changes to the makeup of the General Assembly, with Republicans winning a majority in the Iowa House of Representatives by 20 seats. Democrats still hold a majority in the Iowa Senate, but their margin is much smaller than in previous years. In addition, Republicans now hold the governor's office for the first time in 12 years, with former Governor Terry Branstad defeating incumbent Governor Chet Culver last November.
State should not put property taxpayers at risk
"For too long, our state has put property taxpayers at risk by using property taxes to fund all government services in need of financial help," says Lang. He also says improvements to the state's budgeting process should reduce the overall size and cost of government and should not shift expenses to school districts and local government.
Another focus of the Iowa Farm Bureau's lobbying effort at the Statehouse in 2011 will be protecting the state's agriculture productivity formula for property taxes. The formula, which ties the property taxes on ag land and buildings to its productivity, has helped to stabilize property taxes and is very important for farmers during a period of volatile commodity prices and land values.
Oversight of state regulatory commissions, boards
Farm Bureau will also work to strengthen the legislative oversight of the state regulatory commissions and boards, including the Environmental Protection Commission and the Electrical Examining Board. "It's important that these non-elected boards and commissions do not pass rules and regulations that go beyond the legislature's intent, especially in today's weak economy," says Lang.
Farm Bureau will try to make sure state programs to promote soil and water conservation are adequately funded and will work to promote voluntary watershed-based projects. Lang says his organization will also work to prevent any new regulations or restrictions on tillage drainage systems. These systems are vital to reduce soil loss and nutrient loss, while helping to protect crop yields.