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Iowa ‘Field of Dreams’ Incentive a Nightmare for Iowa Taxpayers

Project creates winners and losers. A better approach is broad-based tax reform for all Iowans.

By Rep. Chris Hagenow
Most Iowans have seen the movie “Field of Dreams,” set on a picturesque farm near Dyersville.  This farm and adjoining baseball field were recently sold to a group of investors with a vision to develop the Field of Dreams site into a large baseball/softball complex to draw in visitors from around the Midwest.

Part of the new owners’ plan is to secure tax advantages from the state of Iowa to help finance the construction of the new facility. The House recently passed House File 2453, which creates a sales tax increment fund for the Field of Dreams site. It gives the developers of the project a tax rebate worth up to $16.5 million.  
I voted ‘no’ on the Field of Dreams project, because it provided preferential state tax treatment for a local project. While I hope that the project becomes a commercial success, I believe this plan uses the Iowa Tax Code to pick winners and losers. Special tax advantages for one individual or entity results in unfair treatment for the rest of us.

I would prefer that the state go the opposite direction, and provide broad-based tax reform to level the playing field for all taxpayers.

Lake Delhi Project Raises Environmental Concerns
Also before the Legislature is a proposal to provide state tax dollars for the reconstruction of Lake Delhi. Lake Delhi is a private lake on the Maquoketa River, which in July of 2010 was significantly damaged after flood waters washed out the dam holding in the waters of the lake area.

The House has already voted to remove the funding from this year’s budget, but those dollars have been added back in the Senate.

Not only do I have reservations about the use of public dollars for the reconstruction of a private recreational area, there are serious concerns about the environmental impact of the dam on the Maquoketa River watershed.

Experts from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as well as various environmental groups have argued that an impoundment dam at Lake Delhi would create problems in the river that will likely give rise to the need for even more ongoing state funding.

The problem is that a dam of this type \slows the river’s natural flow, causing sediment to settle, which damages the river for fish and wildlife habitats. The resulting silt buildup would require the state to continually pay for dredging.

We need to be very careful when considering the diversion of state resources to the local, privately-owned facilities.  Our limited state funds should be used on projects and programs which benefit people across the entire state.

Regents Tuition Set-Asides
As many students and parents have come to realize, tuition at our Regents universities is growing at a rapid pace.  Choosing to attend college has become a more burdensome and difficult choice in the recent past. In 2010 the average student graduating from one of Iowa’s Regent Universities had $27, 532 of student loan debt.

Recently many of us in the House have asked the Board of Regents for more information about a little-known policy that has a big impact on tuition. Included in student tuition is a “set-aside” amount, meaning that not all of the tuition paid by a student goes toward his or her education. This “set-aside” amount is redirected to scholarships and financial aid for other lower income students.  

For undergraduate students, the current effect of the policy is that $1,864 of the $7,765 tuition bill at the University of Iowa is used to offset scholarships of other students. At ISU, $1,392 of the $7,486 tuition bill goes to other students; and at UNI, $980 of the $6,408 tuition bill is applied to other students’ scholarships rather than direct costs of the paying student.

The Board of Regents has agreed with us that these amounts should be disclosed on each tuition bill. People have a right to know how their tuition dollars are being spent.  

Contact Me
As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

Representative Chris Hagenow
State Capitol
East 9th and Grand Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-3221
www.chrishagenow.com
chris.hagenow@legis.state.ia.us

Mike S April 11, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Lake Delhi is a public lake that is managed by DNR. Chris,, as an Iowan rep you really need to check your facts before posting a blog. If a journalist needs to check facts before releasing an article then why don't you, an elected official? The people of Delaware county need stare help to keep their taxes as low as possible which means rebuild of Lake Delhi; we'd love your support so if you need more facts (think you do based on this blog) I ask that you please reach out to the Rebuild Lake Delhi Watershed .
Beth Dalbey (Editor) April 11, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Mike, what do you think about the argument by the DNR and environmental groups that rebuilding the dam would create environmental problems in the river that would cause the expenditure of more state dollars in the future?
Mike S April 11, 2012 at 10:10 PM
That sales tax dollars collected because the public has a lake to visit/use again would pay for any future work. I get that a small majority of people want rivers to flow free, but there would be higher cost to public to allow that to happen which likely makes you mad but it is the truth.
Beth Dalbey (Editor) April 11, 2012 at 11:59 PM
It doesn't make me mad, Mike. I honestly wanted to know what you thought. Thanks for commenting and I hope we hear from you again.

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