116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - Like a come-from-behind rally in the late innings, backers of a proposed baseball and softball complex in Linn County turned defeat into victory Wednesday when Iowa senators reversed field and approved a sales tax incentive for the project.
Legislation that could enable Prospect Meadows and a similar development to be eligible for a sales tax rebate on future revenue of up to $2.5 million over 10 years was passed after the Iowa Senate voted 32-18 to reconsider Monday's decision to reject the concept and then approved an amended version of Senate File 2312 by a 28-22 margin.
'It took a lot of hard work to get this bill to the Capitol and convince fellow legislators Prospect Meadows would be a good project for not only our area, but for the state,” Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Robins, said after Wednesday's Senate action. 'People wrote off the bill to defeat, but never say never.”
Originally, the bill called for a $16.5 million program cap and a $2.5 million individual rebate cap, meaning there could be as many as six or seven projects financed under this program if they met the $10 million investment requirement.
The amended version approved by the Senate scaled back the overall program to $5 million but kept the $2.5 million individual cap, meaning projects such as Prospect Meadows and Field of Dreams in Dyersville could keep the state's portion of sales tax - five-cents generated by sales at the facilities.
As envisioned, Prospect Meadows will create eight softball fields, eight baseball fields and one 'miracle field” for developmentally disabled players. Neither project is anticipated to be in operation until the summer of 2017.
Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, the bill's floor manager, said another key change to S.F. 2312 would require qualified projects to submit their financial plans to the state Economic Development Authority and win the approval of the Community Attractions & Tourism board via the Vision Iowa process rather than just automatically get the state sales tax rebate.
Two Republicans joined 26 majority Democrats in approving the bill and sending it to the Iowa House for consideration, while 22 GOP senators opposed the measure.
One of those opponents, Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, expressed concern that passing such legislation sends a signal to prospective investors that the General Assembly and governor are giving a stamp of approval to a project without any determination if the business plan is qualified, which might skew their ability to make a good decision.
'I must say, in my opinion, I'm a little disappointed. Simply by reducing the cap so we can have fewer projects doing the same thing, I still think it's problematic,” Chelgren told his Senate colleagues. 'I don't think it achieves what I was hoping it would achieve.”