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Replace property tax with income-based system

8/6/2014

The amount of Des Moines properties exempt from property taxation was reported in May to have increased 38 percent in the last 10 years. This ever-present problem has frequently caused local leaders to seek remedies such as persuading or requiring exempt entities (government agencies, hospitals, schools, churches, etc.) to pay a share, or to seek other sources of revenue.

Even though public comment and follow up on this dire report should be expected, it appears mysteriously that there has been none. So here is mine:

The problem with property tax is the fact that it exists. It is an ancient, ridiculously complex and unfair tax system that is frequently seen as an insurmountable obstacle to progress and to doing the politically right thing as if nothing can be done about it.

State and local governments have constantly adjusted, amended and reformed property taxes to try to make them fair and efficient, but without much success. Rather than continuing the patchwork and hoping to persuade or force tax-exempt entities to “pay their share,” the solution is simply to abolish it and replace it with a tax system that is more fair and less administratively costly and troublesome. Property tax is not chipped in stone, and thinking “outside the box” could result in this simple solution.

Replacing property tax with an income-based system would be the fairest approach, because it is based on the ability to pay. It would immediately remove the problem of tax exemption and would lower individual costs by increasing the revenue base beyond just property owners. The first step toward this solution could be to persuade the Iowa Legislature to extend to counties and cities the same authority to collect surtax based on state income tax that is currently authorized to school districts. The simple and efficient administrative mechanism for this solution is already in place.

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Wouldn’t it be great for our local officials to take the lead with this solution?

William E. Johnson
–Des Moines

The meaning of words

Last week’s Civic Skinny (July 31) “words, words, words” article reported trial lawyers in a legal battle involving Bubu Palo were trying to define the difference between “hook up” and “having a hook up.” Is it a concept or something physical?

This has me reconsidering several moments in history. Wasn’t it singer B.J. Thomas in 1974 who said, “I am HOOKED on a feeling and high on believing?” Does that mean feeling is a gateway to believing? If so, should the state outlaw it?

Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who during impeachment proceedings asked the meaning of “is” and suggested he had them HOOK, line and sinker?

Last of all, what did my elementary school teacher mean so many years ago after I arrived at school on a rainy day when she said, “Put your wet wrap on the hook.”

Mike Rowley
–Clive

No friend to Iowa

In Political Mercury (July 31), Douglas Burns asks how the Koch-Bottled Ernst can do what’s right for Iowa. Burns’ question points to Ernst’s opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard that establishes a floor under the ethanol industry that is so essential to Iowa agriculture. Ernst is opposing the RFS standards that are supported by her own Iowa Republican Party’s two key leaders, Branstad and Grassley, as well as Democratic leaders, Harkin and Braley. It has nearly unanimous support from both political parties because the RFS standards guarantee a place for Iowa’s ethanol industry at the energy table.

The Koch’s oil and gas empire and their Iowa political lobby group, Americans for Prosperity, want to pull that chair out from under the ethanol industry to eliminate it as a competitor with Koch and their big oil allies.

Ernst claims to have Iowa values, yet she’s siding with the Koch oil empire — which is no friend to Iowa.

Rick Smith
–Urbandale

Send your opinions to Cityview, 414 61st Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50312. Fax us at 953-1394, or e-mail us at letters@dmcityview.com. Please limit letters to 200 words or less. Cityview reserves the right to edit for length and clarity. The writer’s address and daytime phone number will not be printed, but must be given for verification.

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