Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad pushes for commercial property tax reforms

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad continued his push for commercial property tax relief during a stop in Clinton. That's where he told business leaders that the time is right for permanent reforms.

Clinton businesses are closely watching this call for change. Commercial property tax reform could save Iowa firms more than $300 million. It's the kind of reform that's three decades in the making.

"We just can't keep passing cost on to our customers that aren't going to bring back a return," said restaurant owner Mike Rastrelli.

Reasons why Gov. Branstad came to Rastrelli's in Clinton for a town hall meeting. He's behind a plan for permanent commercial property tax relief. He says the plan will help existing and future businesses to survive and thrive.

"We want to see more commercial investment, more business start-ups in our state," said Gov. Branstad. "When the property tax rate is so high, it really hurts the start-up businesses."

But not everybody is backing the Branstad plan. Democrats argue that commercial property tax relief, combined with not enough state funding, could be a toxic mix for cities like Clinton.

The reforms passed in the Iowa House, but they will likely face a tougher fight in the Iowa Senate.

While the Branstad plan also promises to protect homeowners and municipal services, it could challenge cities that already are making budget cuts.

"We have no other way to raise money other than to actually cut services or to start charging for other services that we have now," said Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich.

The tax reform package is designed to make Iowa more attractive to businesses. That's appealling in Clinton, where firms are ready for a break.

"We want to pay our fair share," Rastrelli concluded. "But we want to pay our fair share across the board."