State Sen. Mark Segebart
State Sen. Mark Segebart
April 22, 2013

Carroll's two state legislators Saturday strongly supported an expansion of tax credits for Iowans who donate to organizations that fund private-school tuition for low-income students.

The Student Tuition Organization tax credit, in existence since 2006, allows for a maximum of $8.75 million in tax credits for people who give to such groups. State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, D-Manilla, and State Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, support an increase in the tax credits. A plan to hike the available tax credits to $12 million moved out of the Iowa House.

"This is good for our private schools," Muhlbauer said.

The matter remains before the Senate. Segebart said he would like to see an increase to $20 million. Any hike would be a boost for the Sioux City Diocese's Monsignor Lafferty Fund, which has benefitted the Kuemper Catholic School System.

The legislators differed on the best approach to property-tax reform, Gov. Terry Branstad's central goal this session.

Segebart said he supports an Iowa House Republican plan that would, among other things, reduce the commercial and industrial property-tax rate 5 percent over each of the next four years to 80 percent of taxable valuation. Such property is now taxed at 100 percent.

A Senate version would provide up to $250 million in tax credits aimed at smaller businesses. Muhlbauer backs that plan, saying that it effectively targets the use of tax breaks.

Segebart said the Senate plan doesn't do enough to make Iowa a more attractive place to locate and expand businesses.

"We're still not sitting in a real favorable position with the states around us," Segebart said.

The legislators spoke about property-tax reform and other issues at Carroll Dental Associates during the Carroll Chamber of Commerce's final scheduled legislative forum Saturday morning. About 40 people attended the session.

Both legislators said they support 4 percent allowable growth (the per-student percentage increase) for the state's K-12 systems next year.

"Four percent is what we need," Muhlbauer said.

Added Segebart, "Four percent is probably the allowable growth that most of our rural schools need."

The Republican-controlled House passed a 2 percent allowable growth, while the Senate passed one of 4 percent. A likely compromise would involve a 2 percent allowable growth plus a 2 percent one-time payment next year, followed by a 4 percent allowable for the subsequent year.

Muhlbauer said he pursued a plan to set rates differently depending on enrollment growth. He'd like to see a plan with zero percent allowable growth for growing schools; 2 percent for schools with steady enrollment; and 4 percent for systems with declining enrollment.

Muhlbauer said such a system would not clear legal hurdles.

The Iowa Senate last week approved an appropriations bill with $964 million for higher education in the state, including a boost of $16 million for community colleges.

Segebart, noted in the forum that some of the money would go to Des Moines Area Community College. Segebart voted against the measure, which passed 26-22. The final funding will be determined after a House-Senate negotiation.

Segebart signed a pledge to vote against any appropriations for Des Moines Area Community College because the school provided $1,000 for registration fees for students to attend a recent anti-bullying conference Segebart and other conservatives believe advanced a homosexual lifestyle.