A 2 percent solution to a nonexistent problem

ISU economist Dave Swenson exposes how a Republican property tax bill relies on flawed assumptions and would make the “important job of governing harder” for cities and counties. -promoted by Laura Belin

It is a common canard among the anti-property taxers that city and county governments, those closest to the electorate, are gouging unsuspecting taxpayers. It is their rallying lament, and it requires no substantiation, just confident assertion.

As is frequently the case with made-up woes like this, Iowa House Republicans have a solution. The remedy is House Study Bill 165, a bill to place limits on city and county government property tax growth.

Continue Reading...

County treasurers' debacle is teachable moment for Iowa officials, attorneys

Top officials in the Iowa State County Treasurers Association voted on March 27 to discontinue a controversial scholarship program, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press.

Earlier this month, all 99 county treasurers received the latest call for scholarship applications. Since then, longstanding doubts about the program’s legality reached a wider audience after Foley revealed that two county treasurers had vacationed last fall with the owner of a company doing business with their offices.

The bad publicity could have been avoided if treasurers and those advising them had been committed to complying with Iowa’s gift law, even when no one was looking.

Continue Reading...

Some county treasurers have flouted Iowa gift law for years

Enforcement of Iowa ethics law is a joke.

Dubuque County Treasurer Eric Stierman and Winneshiek County Treasurer Wayne Walter stayed for free in a vendor’s Florida condo a few months ago, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on March 13. The condo’s owner is Marc Carr, whose company GovTech Services collects local taxes for most of the state’s counties. The officials “denied any wrongdoing, describing Carr as a friend with whom they had previously vacationed in Florida.”

Iowa gift law does not exempt friends or vacations. While Stierman and Walter committed a particularly outrageous violation, their disregard for the code is hardly surprising.

For years, the Iowa State County Treasurer’s Association and the Iowa State Association of Counties have enabled and encouraged gifts to county treasurers from GovTech and SRI Incorporated, which handles online tax auctions. Since 2014, the two companies have paid for scholarships available only to children and grandchildren of county treasurers or their employees.

The mission of the association of counties is “to promote effective and responsible county government.” Yet the group’s top attorney Kristi Harshbarger helped devise a scheme to offer the scholarships despite the apparent gift law problem. Later, Harshbarger pushed back hard against an ethics board opinion that the program did not comply with the statute.

Continue Reading...

Gender balance should be happening on local boards

Poweshiek County Soil and Water Commissioner and farm manager John Clayton comments on a recent study showing that men continue to be over-represented on Iowa’s county-level appointed boards and commissions. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Des Moines Register recently ran an Associated Press story about how most Iowa counties are not in compliance with the gender balance law.

In this same regard, many Iowa cities, including the City of Grinnell, also reveal themselves as not progressive.

Continue Reading...
View More...