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Iowa Senate leader says 'everything's on the table' for reducing property taxes

jack whitver
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said property tax relief is a priority in 2023.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said “everything’s on the table” when it comes to efforts to reduce property taxes during the upcoming legislative session, as Republican Statehouse leaders say that is one of their top priorities for 2023.

In an interview Tuesday, IPR asked Whitver if he would support a two-year freeze on property taxes.

“Right now, we’re kind of looking at property taxes holistically, and so everything’s on the table when it comes to property taxes,” Whitver said. “But I wouldn’t say we’re definitely going to do that. I’m not going to rule it out.”

Iowans for Tax Relief, a group that lobbies for tax cuts and government spending limits, recently asked Gov. Kim Reynolds to support a two-year freeze on property tax rate increases so that lawmakers can figure out how to overhaul the property tax system.

City and county elected officials decide property tax rates, and they use the revenue to fund local services.

In 2019, Senate Republicans proposed limiting annual property tax increases. City and county officials strongly opposed the bill. Ultimately, Reynolds signed a bill into law that requires officials to provide more informationand additional opportunities for public input regarding property taxes, but does not limit tax increases.

Whitver said the “real issue” is spending at the local level.

“You can still invest in priorities and continue to grow your cities without spending frivolously,” he said.

Whitver said it will probably take a while to get to a bill on property taxes that the House and Senate Republicans and the governor can all agree on.

He also said he’s open to pursuing more income tax cuts, even as major tax cuts passed in the last session are going to start taking effect in January.

“It’s just a balance of making sure the bill that we passed last year is phased in and is working, along with continuing to build upon that,” Whitver said. “Whether it’s this year or next year, I don’t know, but absolutely want to continue to make progress on reducing the income tax, or even eliminating it.”

Whitver said he is not concerned about the latest revenue estimate that shows Iowa is expected to bring in less money this fiscal year because of the tax cuts.

Whitver says private school scholarships are a top priority

Whitver said creating state-funded private school scholarships is a top priority in the upcoming legislative session. Senate Republicans and Reynolds have tried to make that happen in the past two years, but House Republicans were not on board.

Whitver said he hopes lawmakers can get the bill to the governor’s desk “fairly early in session.”

“I really want to work with the House, with the governor, with the Senate, all coming together, trying to come up with one piece of legislation so we don’t have two or three different bills floating around trying to work off of,” Whitver said. “Hopefully those talks can continue so we do have just one bill.”

House Speaker Pat Grassley said he’s “pretty confident”House Republicans will pass a private school scholarships bill in 2023.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said diverting public school funds to scholarships for students to go to private schools would be an “existential threat” to rural communities.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter