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Iowa business leaders want tax reform, common minimum wage

Iowa Chamber Alliance outlines legislative goals

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DES MOINES — Business leaders in Iowa’s largest cities calling for tax simplification and a statewide, uniform minimum wage got a sympathetic ear Thursday from two members of the new incoming GOP legislative majority.

Rep. Zack Nunn, R-Bondurant, and Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, told Iowa Chamber Alliance members that reforming Iowa’s tax code and preempting local entities from setting minimum wage levels higher than the state level are issues they expect the Legislature to tackle when its session begins Jan. 9.

The two Republicans joined two minority Democrats at an alliance luncheon in assuring members of the coalition representing Iowa’s 16 largest chambers of commerce and economic development organizations that they expect lawmakers will honor a 2013 agreement that cut property taxes. The state also will continue to “backfill” revenue lost to the tax relief, according to the agreement.

Zumbach said leaders of the new 29-member Senate GOP majority have completed committee assignments and plan to meet next week to chart priorities for the session. He said he expects tax reform to be at the top of the list.

That was good news to alliance members who said simplifying the state’s tax system and establishing a statewide minimum wage to halt the patchwork of local rates that exceed the state standard are critical objectives.

“If we can simplify and reduce, that’s the best case scenario,” said John Stineman, alliance executive director. “If we’re able to substantially simplify our tax code, that alone would be a substantial step forward.”

“It’s all about economic growth,” said Jason Hutcheson, a Greater Burlington Partnership executive who is chairman of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, which outlined its goals for the legislative session.

At the forefront of that effort were policy recommendations for strategic initiatives key to fostering economic growth that included taxes, business climate, government regulations and economic development.

“The 2017 legislative session provides a unique opportunity for the Iowa Chamber Alliance to promote and advance economic growth policies,” Hutcheson told an alliance gathering. “This legislative session will allow us to be thoughtfully engaged in several important conversations including those dealing with tax simplification and reform, minimum wage uniformity and economic development incentives,” Hutcheson said.

Alliance members said they want to see Republicans, whose advantage is 59-41 in the House and a 29-19-1 in the Senate pending an election in Davenport this month to fill a vacant seat, take steps to boost Iowa’s economy. The alliance’s goals are ensuring competitive and fair taxes, strong fiscal management of the state budget, investments in infrastructure, programs to encourage entrepreneurship and attract investment, investment in developing and retaining a high-end workforce, and establishing a “predictable and responsive” regulatory environment.

Chris McGowan, president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce in Sioux City, said local control should not prevail with minimum wage ordinances.

“Any adjustments to the minimum wage should be done at the state level, not by local government entities,” he said.

Hutcheson said the Tax Foundation ranked Iowa business tax climate 40th nationally in its latest index because of the state’s tax system complexities and the fact Iowa is one of a handful of states that allows taxpayers to deduct state tax liabilities on federal taxes.

“Our state’s complex system makes Iowa less competitive and requires a cumbersome explanation to prospective businesses,” McGowan said. “While limited resources and competing priorities make tax reform a difficult goal to achieve in any legislative session, the Chamber Alliance reiterates and elevates its position and strong recommendation.

“Lowering and simplifying income taxes for both corporate and personal taxpayers is a critical need to make Iowa as competitive as it can be in realizing economic growth.” he added. “We believe we have a unique opportunity to do this with the next General Assembly.”

McGowan said chamber members support a periodic review and cost-benefit analysis of state agency rules and regulations in cooperation with business and organizations to “ensure a minimally invasive and efficient regulatory environment.” He said the review should evaluate state rules based on necessity, effectiveness, cost-efficiency, enforcement ability and financial impact.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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