State Rep. Brian Best speaks at the final legislative forum in Coon Rapids.
State Rep. Brian Best speaks at the final legislative forum in Coon Rapids.

April 24, 2018

COON RAPIDS

For residents who want to see rural Iowa continue to thrive, there’s one everyday step they can take, State Rep. Brian Best said during the final Chamber of Commerce legislative forum Saturday.

Shop local.

Referencing the Supreme Court’s consideration of whether states can collect taxes on items ordered online from stores that don’t have a physical presence in the state, Best said the tax would allow local businesses to more fairly compete.

I’m not trying to grub money, but I think it’s only fair to us that (online and out-of-state businesses) have to pay the state tax,” said Best, R-Glidden, who represents all of Carroll and Audubon counties and part of Crawford County. “If somebody goes into a clothing store in Iowa, they pay 7 percent, if they go to Carroll. If they order that same suit through the internet, they pay no tax. That’s not fair to the guys who are, for the most part, keeping all that money right here in the state of Iowa and probably most of it in their county.”

It’s tempting to order from Amazon, pay a lower price and receive the item in days, Best said, but for rural shoppers, those decisions have long-term repercussions.

“As a society, especially as a rural society, I think we’ve really got to think about what we’re doing here,” he said. “At some point, we’ll be a barren desert if we don’t keep the businesses that are in our communities going. When you buy something from California, no money’s going toward your school or your streets or your town.”

One city with flourishing businesses is Manning, Best said, noting the updates to Main Street, business expansions and improvements, and other economic-development initiatives the city has undertaken in recent years.

“They have really used all of the available resources and done a fantastic job over the years to get that town really doing some pretty amazing things,” he said. “Manning has done just an amazing job. You drive down their brick Main Street, and you see some pretty vital businesses in a town of that size. And they’ve got a lot to be proud of.”

Best also touched on continuing discord between the House and Senate on how to structure a tax-cut plan for the state.

The Senate’s original plan to offer $1 billion in tax relief annually for five years now has been reduced to a proposal of $2 billion in tax relief over the course of five years, while the House’s plan offers $1.3 billion in relief over five years, which is more in line with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ preference, Best said.

He added that he believes the Legislature could reach an agreement “fairly soon.”

“As a conservative, I think there’s more to conservative principles than just cutting taxes,” Best said. “Part of being conservative is making sure that you don’t get your state in a position where you cut taxes to the point where you can’t keep the promises that you’ve made to the public as far as state troopers and judicial and funding Medicaid and things like that. So (the House has) taken a less aggressive approach.”

Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, who typically holds the forums with Best, was unable to attend the final meeting.

Best also fielded a question about the Legislature’s decision last year to allow fireworks to be sold in Iowa — although it was left up to individual cities to determine whether residents could set them off within city limits. Glidden allowed residents to do so last year, while Carroll prohibited the use of fireworks within the city.

“The city of Glidden, man, you could smell gunpowder throughout the city for 24 hours,” Best said.

He added that he heard from a resident whom he believes has post-traumatic-stress disorder who said the period during which fireworks were permitted to be set off in Glidden were several of the most miserable days of his life. Best said that he hopes the “firework euphoria” of last year was a one-time response to the law change.

That’s probably the vote that I took last year that, when I look at all the votes I took, that I’m second-guessing myself a little bit on that vote,” he said. “I’ve never said that there was a vote that I regretted, but that’s one I think that probably we should have vetted a little bit more.”