When the 2023 state legislative session begins in January, Linn County’s 2023 legislative priorities will focus on these top five issues:
Local Option Sales Tax and the Water and Land Legacy Fund
The current proposals to activate the 3/8th of one cent sales tax to fund the Iowa Water and Land Legacy trust fund are not the approach supported by Linn County to fund the Iowa Water and Land Legacy trust fund. Currently, most jurisdictions across Iowa have, by voter referendum, approved a local option sales tax. Approval of this tax has provided local voters with an important revenue stream to fund initiatives ranging from property tax relief to road spending. Current proposals to convert this to a statewide sales tax and impose the local option sales tax in every jurisdiction. This would trigger the constitutional amendment and require the allocation of 3/8th of a cent to the Iowa Water and Land Legacy trust fund. While Linn County has historically supported funding the Iowa Water and Land Legacy fund, the method proposed is not what Linn County believes Iowans voted for when this passed more than a decade ago.
Local governments are focused on making sure that constituents get the services they demand for the best value. Linn County seeks to engage in discussions on how to efficiently manage tax dollars while maintaining services taxpayers expect. Issues like unfunded mandates and user fees that have not kept pace with actual costs, and therefore must be supplemented with property tax dollars, make this a complicated discussion. In addition, Linn County encourages the state Legislature to remember that the elimination of the mental health levy was offset by the elimination of the backfill from the commercial property tax reduction. Linn County believes this discussion should include a recognition that local governments are largely reliant on property taxes to fund the services constituents expect. Any discussions of real reform of property taxes in Iowa must be holistic in nature and must include reviewing all taxing entities and not just cities and counties.
Unfunded and Underfunded State Mandates
Linn County calls on state legislators to help reduce the burden placed on local property taxpayers by addressing instances of cost-shifting state expenses to local governments, including reimbursing local governments for state-approved tax credits and allowing county departments to charge fees that cover the cost of providing services. Linn County also requests that the legislature carefully review laws that set requirements for the funding of independent boards and commissions to make sure that elected boards retain oversight authority and control over tax dollars.
Linn County requests the state Legislature encourage fiscally prudent project planning by providing counties with the same ability that cities have to issue bonds for projects based on the principal amount of the bond, rather than on the project cost. This ability will allow counties to use federal funds as a match to complete eligible projects.
Mental Health Funding
Linn County requests the state Legislature continues the major step the Legislature took in 2021 toward sustainable funding for both the children’s and adult mental health systems by addressing remaining challenges. Including allowing regions to maintain a fund balance (10%) that is adequate to ensure that they can make payments to providers on time.
In addition to these top five priorities, the Board of Supervisors approved 13 additional areas of interest:
- Social, Criminal & Racial Justice Reform
- County Zoning
- Childcare and the Workforce
- Early Childhood Iowa
- Fair Chance Hiring
- Conservation Programs
- Public Improvement Project Delivery Methods
- Cannabis Legalization
- Veterans Eligibility
- Derecho Recovery & Investment
- Juvenile Justice Center Cost Sharing
- Eluding with Excessive Speed
Learn more about Linn County’s 2023 legislative priorities (PDF).