To the Editor,
Let's accomplish the long overdue reform of corporate tax subsides. Iowa has a $500 million shortfall in state revenues, due almost entirely to the national recession caused by Wall Street.
This unprecedented drop in income led Governor Culver to impose a ten percent across the board cut in all general fund spending. Almost $600 million was cut from education, health care, public safety and clean air and water programs. These cuts hurt important basic services that provide educational opportunity, medical care, and improved quality of life.
Meanwhile, on the tax spending side of the state budget, absolutely no cuts have been proposed for the $400 million we give to corporations each year through tax subsides. This state spending, which includes corporate tax credits, has increased by 350 percent over the past five years. That means it's the fastest growing part of state spending. And unlike the intense scrutiny that education, health care, public safety, natural resources and environment budgets receive each year, this sort of spending receives virtually no regular oversight.
For example there are no performance measures or regular reports to the legislature or Governor on whether these programs are working. The few examinations that have occurred have shown that of these programs are excessively generous or ineffective or both. When we are forced to cut educational opportunity, health care for those in need, and law enforcement, why aren't we insisting that corporate tax credits and similar corporate spending receive not only far more scrutiny, but also take it's fair share of across-the-board cuts?
It's time to follow the lead of other states by also cutting spending on corporate subsides. It is time to replace the blank check approach with a spending cap on all corporate tax subsides. We should sunset all the tax credits subsides and regularly evaluate every dollar spent in this area for results.
Difficult times force everyone to establish priorities. Corporate tax subsides should no longer trump educating our kids when it comes to our public spending priorities. I support effective economic development programs, but it is time that they become far more transparent and accountable for creating good paying jobs. Now is the time to make long overdue reforms.
Joe Bolkcom, Chairman, Senate Ways and Means Committee, Iowa City
To the Editor:
The Grundy County Assessor retired on 12/31/2009, and his pay was $58,832. On January 1, 2010, the Deputy Assessor got a $9,544 raise when he became the Assessor with a salary of $55,888. That same day, the Appraiser got a $5,560 raise when he became the Deputy Assessor with a salary of $44,025 and then the Appraisers position was eliminated. On January 18, 2010, the Assessor sent a notice to his governing board that he was requesting a 3% pay increase effective July 1, 2010. Although their titles changed, remarkably, their jobs are not going to be significantly different than before January 1st.
I could have prevented most of that nonsense from happening, but I changed my vote. It is well documented in the Assessors minutes and that is a choice I deeply regret. What is not documented, but a fact nonetheless, is that I changed my vote because that meeting, held on 12/22/09, was poorly attended and I did not want one rabble-rouser (me) to disrupt a good plan. Rather the "intent" of the plan was good because it did eliminate a job, but the large salary increases made it bad, stinking-bad in my opinion.
Before changing my vote, I remarked to Chairman Riekena that I would be coming back in January 2010, and that I intended to get the salaries reduced to a more reasonable amount. Later, I asked Mr. Riekena to change the meeting time from 1 PM to 7 PM so that more members of the governing board could attend. The new chairman of that board is Mark Schildroth, and he set the meeting time for 1 PM on January 25, 2010.
During the December meeting, it was discussed that it might be a good idea to figure out what the proper staffing should be at the Assessors office before setting the salaries. I reiterated that idea during calls to the assessor and supervisors early in the week of January 18th. Unfortunately, that has not been done and there does not appear to be any interest to do so.
It is apparent to me that among the Assessors most important projects each year is the preparation and execution of a plan to increase their salaries. No resources are spared in that regard and those resources are significant, and of course, they come at the taxpayers' expense.
By the time taxpayers read this letter, there may not be anything that anyone can do to change this situation until January 2011. However, you can make your opinion known to your county supervisor, mayor and school board representative because they are the only ones who can vote to make it change.
I applaud Mayor Pro Tem Jack Emkes from Dike who would not change his vote and I apologize to the citizens of Conrad because I did.
Gregg Sharp, Mayor
City of Conrad