Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Gov. Terry Branstad along with their spouses wave to the crowd at the West Des Moines Marriott on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. (The Daily Iowan/Anna Kilzer)

Letters to the Editor: Fund the backfill, corrections to voter turnout column


Ask your legislator to back the backfill

The Iowa Legislature should fully fund the backfill. In 2013, state law was changed to reduce the amount of taxes that local governments get from commercial and industrial properties. The backfill is a reimbursement from the state to local governments for this loss. The total payment for the current fiscal year was more than $152 million, of which nearly $1.5 million went to Johnson County, $3.6 million went to towns in Johnson County, and nearly $2.9 million went to schools in Johnson County. These reimbursements help ensure local governments aren’t forced to drastically increase property taxes on your home or farm or to make cuts to the services you depend on.

Despite Gov. Kim Reynolds’ full funding of the backfill in her proposed budget, there are two pieces of legislation before the Legislature that would phase out or greatly reduce funding for the backfill. Both bills are troubling for many reasons. First, the taxable value of commercial and industrial property hasn’t even returned to the levels from before the legislation was implemented, so if the backfill is significantly reduced or eliminated, counties will receive less tax revenue than they did five years ago. Second, both plans call for reductions far too rapidly for most counties to absorb without significant property-tax increases or reductions in services. Third, the phase-out begins in fiscal 2019, and counties have already set their budgets for fiscal 2019, so this would force immediate budget amendments to raise property taxes or cut back on services.

RELATED: 2019 Fiscal Year expected to enhance community

As Johnson County works to continue to provide the high-quality local services that you deserve and depend on, we want to do so without putting the burden on you, local property taxpayers. We will continue to urge our legislators to back the backfill, and we encourage you to join us. Please ask your legislators to support the governor’s proposal and to fulfill its commitment to replace their reductions from commercial and industrial property-tax revenue.

— Johnson County Board of Supervisors

Iowa exemplifies good voter laws

This letter comes in response to an opinion shared by Ella Lee regarding voting in America. I noticed a problem with a key component of her argument that I would like to point out and hopefully clarify.

Lee notes that any American who cannot reach their assigned polling place on election day should either vote early or cast an absentee ballot. She claims that these two options are available to anyone in all 50 states. Unfortunately, that is incorrect. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states that do allow absentee voting require a reasonable excuse to do so. Early voting is also unavailable in 13 of the states. Those states include large population centers such as New York and Pennsylvania.

RELATED: Lee: America’s voting system desperately needs a makeover

Lee also discusses the challenges posed by the current system of voting in America, and we should look to Iowa for answers on what works. The key to a quality voting system is a process in which it is easy to vote but hard to commit fraud, and that is the balance that exists in Iowa. The people’s active role in the electoral process, from caucus to primary to Election Day, is one of many reasons Iowans have the privilege of being first in the nation during presidential elections and why Iowa is consistently in the top 10 for voter turnout. Other states seeking to increase voter turnout should consider what Iowa has done under the leadership of people such as Secretary of State Paul Pate, maintaining ample opportunities to vote while also increasing security for those votes.

–Caleb Bell

UI student

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