Be Thankful and Eat Turkey

The turkey industry in Iowa employs or supports over 38,000 total jobs and is responsible for as much as $10.64 billion in total economic activity throughout the state.   Iowa has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Our governor and legislature enacted the largest tax reform in state history, state revenue continues to exceed projections, the state […]

The Assessor is NOT to Blame

Don’t miss who is truly in charge of your property taxes. When county board, city council, and school board members increase spending, taxes go up; when their spending decreases, taxes go down. It’s as simple as that. We’ve all heard it around our communities: “Watch out: the assessor is coming around, which means property taxes are going up!” or “Don’t […]

Iowa FY2022 Exceeds Expectations With Large Surplus

Iowa has far exceeded expectations again, as the books are now officially closed on fiscal year 2022. Just over six months ago, Iowa budget experts on the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) forecast state revenues to be 4.3% more than the previous fiscal year. However, the state ultimately brought in 8% ($717 million) more than last year, resulting in a budget surplus of $1.91 billion.

This is the second year in a row Iowa experienced a billion dollar surplus, as the state ended fiscal year 2021 with a $1.24 billion surplus. While income tax cuts have been phasing in since 2018, these figures provide even more confidence for the coming rounds of rate cuts and the exemption of retirement income scheduled for 2023.

Giving Property Tax Protection “Teeth”

In 2019, Iowa lawmakers passed a property tax accountability and transparency law. Any city or county government with a proposed budget increase of more than 2% above the previous year must now hold a public hearing first. Then, if the elected body still wishes to raise taxes after holding that hearing, it must achieve a supermajority vote of its members.

While this law is a good start, huge property tax increases in recent years prove that more needs to be done to slow the growth. ITR Foundation is both monitoring legislators’ plans to “give teeth” to the 2019 reforms and investigating other states with similar laws on the books. Nebraska, for instance, just implemented a tax accountability and transparency policy, so we traveled to Omaha for the first related public hearing.

Lessons Learned from Iowa Tax History

By Sarah Curry, DBA At the end of the 19th Century, Iowa levied property taxes on just about everything. Yes, real estate and homes like we do today, but also jewelry and other personal property, household goods, and intangibles such as mortgages, bonds, and stock holdings. Taxes were widely felt to be burdensome, unequal, and unfair, leading many Iowans to […]

State Revenue in August Paints a Positive Picture

Iowa’s revenue report for August has been released and the news for the month was encouraging. Even under the weight of continued inflation and a national recession, the state’s net General Fund revenue was $57 million (6.5%) above the August 2021 net revenue level.

When broken down by the three largest sources of revenue-personal income tax, sales/use tax, and corporate income tax-each category demonstrated monthly growth over 2021 (directly from the LSA Revenue Memo):

Iowa Sales Tax Holiday is No Cause for Celebration

A sales tax holiday is a limited time period during which a state frees purchases of specific items from state and local sales tax. At first glance this seems like a good policy from a tax-skeptical, pro-consumer perspective — giving people a break — especially when times are tough, as they are, now, with high inflation. However, sales tax holidays create complexities for tax code compliance, do not promote economic growth or increase consumer purchases, and distract policy makers from truly beneficial sales tax reforms.

As the Pandemic Ends, Federal Strings Tangle Medicaid in Iowa

Given the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) recent easing of its COVID-19 guidelines, the national public health emergency appears near its end. The technical end of this emergency declaration will signify that the pandemic is officially over. And while that development will be cause for celebration, it will also trigger a major event for state governments and citizens enrolled in Medicaid.

The Use of ARPA funds in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Black Hawk County

By Sarah Curry, DBA The COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, yet the federal government took over a year to direct financial relief to local municipalities across the country through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The pandemic hit local communities across Iowa hard, but through hard work and fortitude, governments survived the pandemic with little lasting fiscal damage. Now […]

The Use of ARPA Funds in Davenport, Bettendorf, and Scott County

By Sarah Curry, DBA The COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, yet the federal government took over a year to direct financial relief to municipalities across the country through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The pandemic hit local communities across Iowa hard, but our governments survived the pandemic with little lasting fiscal damage. Now Iowa’s cities and counties face […]

The Use of ARPA Funds in Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Linn County

The COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, yet the federal government took over a year to direct financial relief to municipalities through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The pandemic hit local communities across Iowa hard, but our governments survived the pandemic with little lasting fiscal damage. Now cities and counties face the task of spending ARPA funds while complying […]

Where Did Iowa’s Local COVID Relief Funds Go?

In March 2021, the United States was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to previous large-scale stimulus measures, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) on a party-line vote. Relief for state and local governments was among the most thoroughly debated provisions of the legislation, ultimately sending $130.2 billion to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. Iowa cities and counties collectively received $1.162 billion. The state’s largest eleven metropolitan cities received nearly $335 million, while counties took in $612 million and smaller governments received $216 million in payments.

“It’s Easy” To Spend Taxpayer Dollars

Why do local governments believe they need so much of your money? In recent years, Iowa property valuations have increased considerably. Large valuation increases usually translate into increased revenue for local governments in the form of property taxes. Given the impact of inflation, we can expect this trend to continue.  It will be interesting to see how Iowans manage to bear a growing property tax burden while paying more for gas, groceries, and everything else.