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An Iowa Corporate Welfare Frenzy

April 21, 2009

As busy as they are in scrambling to get out of town, the Iowa General Assembly still finds time to give more of your money to the well-lobbied by way of tax credits. Three bills advanced yesterday:

- HF 810, providing credits for "small wind innovation zones," passed the Senate unanimously. It's already cleared the House, so now it goes to the Governor. This way you can pay for people to build windmills, whether or not they make economic sense, and whether or not there is transmission and storage capacity in place for the power generated.

- SF 481 eases requirements for qualifying for the old building rehab credit, and it raises the annual limit for credits from $20 million to $50 million. This bill passed 86-3, even though Downtown Des Moines is full of empty rehabbed residential units, the state is participating in the nationwide real estate slump, and the state still hasn't figured out how it will balance its budget in the upcoming fiscal year. This already has passed the Iowa Senate without dissent.

For what it's worth, the three House dissenters were Democrats; Every legislative Republican, and all but three Democrats, voted in favor of this spending (and it is spending, just spending disguised as tax reduction).

-HF 824, expanding the Microsoft/Google giveaway to more server farms, passed 91-1, with Des Moines' Bruce Hunter again casting the sole vote on behalf of those of us who are not out-of-state multi-millionaires. Unfortunately, the state failed to pass the much more worthy bill to help a locally-based accounting firm that has already created as many jobs as Microsoft will, at a fraction of the cost.

But there's more! A press release from Senator "All-night Long" Murphy promises to expand our 50-percent filmmaker subsidy. HF 818 will make it easier squander still more of your hard-earned tax dollars to subsidize itinerant filmmakers who deign to film here before they go back to their Hollywood mansions.


Tourists throng downtown Des Moines, filming location of part of the 1990s remake of "The Puppet Masters

All of this frantic spending on well-lobbied business interests comes in the face of a flicker of sanity in this score: SSB 1316 , which would cap economic development tax credits at a mere $175 million annually. That bill has passed the Senate, but hasn't moved out of committee in the House. It's easier to spend a lot of your money than to save a little.

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