Iowa Rep. Jack Drake and state Sen. Hubert Houser visited Creston Saturday for a legislative coffee, sponsored by Creston Chamber of Commerce, with members of the community to discuss what is on the people’s minds. The people zeroed in on money.
There were several farmers in the room, and Houser asked the people their thoughts on the Iowa Corngrower’s Association’s required checkoff for corn. The current thought is to eliminate the tax cap for corn producers with this corn check.
The corn checkoff is a tax on corn that currently stands at 1 cent per bushel. The money is managed under the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. The board promotes the different uses for corn, such as high fructose corn syrup and ethanol.
Some farmers were in favor of the check, such as Ron Riley, who is also a Union County supervisor. He said there should be a cap on the amount a farmer is taxed. Tom Henderson also said he had no problem with the tax.
“Obviously, expenses go up, acreages go up,” said Riley. “... I imagine 1 cent per bushel needs to be raised.”
Others, such as Mike Brentnall, said the tax cap should not pass.
“Personally,” said Brentnall, “I think it’s just another tax on the producer.”
Creston mayor Warren Woods asked Drake and Houser about the commercial property tax. He was in opposition, and asked if cities were going to get money down the road.
“I want to express my opposition to that,” said Woods, “mainly because of the backfill that’s involved with it. I do believe that the Senate bill is worthy of consideration because that affects everybody, that affects small businesses more and it doesn’t leave that open for ... if the city is going to get money down the road.”
Houser said he wants to see something done on property taxes, since commercial property tax is 100 percent of market value and residential and agricultural land taxes are only 50 percent.
“I would really like to see them do something on property tax relief,” said Houser. “We haven’t had any in a long time.”
Wayne Pantini spoke with Drake and Houser concerning the small business development center. He said the center used to receive state and federal funds and matched local funds, but recently state funds have “dwindled to almost nothing now, with almost no sustainability.”
“I’m concerned with the sequester that’s coming up that we’re going to be losing some of our federal support,” Pantini said, “thus leaving us, more than likely, with the inability to provide services for this area.”
Houser told Pantini to check with Iowa Economic Development and the tax credits that are available.
Pantini then said he thought state tax credits should lift the cap to $185 million because the credits are only usable once.
Houser then talked about anhydrous plants in Iowa. He said Keokuk was able to get Midwest disaster bonds through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the plants used them before the expiration date. He said looking at the overall investment the plants made, the federal investment was “very small” in the long run.
Also discussed at the legislative coffee:
• Drake said a bill has been presented for an increase in the gas tax, but currently there is little talk of the bill. The gas tax is meant to improve the local infrastructure. Houser said people living in rural areas tend to approve of the gas tax.
• Brentnall questioned the state requirement of drug testing if someone is in a state job position, but the lack of required drug testing for those applying for welfare. Houser was receptive to the thought. Florida and other states have passed bills for the same requirement.
• Drake said the increase of salary for state employees went into arbitration because the two parties could not agree. Drake said he was unsure how much of an increase the employees will get.
• Mike Henry asked Houser and Drake their opinion on webcam abortions. Neither knew what a webcam abortion was, so Henry explained that a doctor from a different area could counsel a patient via webcam and give her a prescription to abort. Henry suggested legislation prohibit webcam abortions. Drake explained that anti-abortion bills have been passed and gone to the Senate, but with no results.
• The next coffee is scheduled for March 23.