The 2012 session of the Iowa Legislature has to be considered a disappointment based on the failure to come to agreement on one issue.
That's the elusive commercial property tax relief package that Republicans and Democrats alike - in the split-control Legislature - had identified as their top priority in the early days of the session. It has been a priority in past sessions, as well. In fact it has been discussed and debated without coming to a reasonable conclusion for over three decades.
Leaders of the House and Senate met with Gov. Terry Branstad before the session adjourned in hopes of finding a compromise on a plan to reduce commercial property taxes while limiting growth for other property classes and providing state "backfill" money to cushion the potential loss of revenue to local governments.
An agreement could not be reached.
Later, Branstad said he would consider calling a special legislative session to pass a comprehensive property tax relief package if he and state legislators can work out a satisfactory compromise.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he is willing to continue to work with the House and look for common ground.
However, the history of this issue, a polarized political climate and the fact that this is an election year are all working against that.
We have long known that commercial property taxes in Iowa are out of line with neighboring states. Iowa has the second highest commercial property tax rate in the nation. These are obvious hurdles to economic growth and the fostering of a business climate that could greatly benefit the state.
We know this is a tough issue. We don't want to see such a move eventually become a simple shifting of tax burdens to home property taxes. Efficiencies in local and state governments should be part of the equation.
Gridlock is alive and well in Iowa. Apparently, it's still too large of an obstacle for our legislators to overcome - even on the self-proclaimed No. 1 issue of the past session. Again, it has been caught up in partisan politics with elections looming.
While a special session would give us a glimmer of hope that this issue can be resolved, that hope is quickly waning. Again.
- Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, May 14