Budget and Taxes: Promoting Balance and Accountability
Costly Off-Budget Spending on Research Tax Credits Comes with Little Oversight
Designed to support start-up companies to do research, Iowa's costly Research Activities Credit program primarily benefits very large companies, with little scrutiny, as money is spent under the cover of tax law and not the regular budget process.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder. 3/6/14. NEW!
Or 2-page PDF.

The state of Iowa spent $36.2 million on research subsidy checks to 140 companies that paid no state income tax in 2013. Iowa Fiscal Partnership analysis of a new state report shows the 12 largest recipients of the Research Activities Credit (RAC) shared at least $29.1 million in those checks.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership news release. 2/17/14.

For additional perspective, see our blog posts:

A taste of transparency, 2/11/14
Two numbers say so much, 3/6/14 NEW!


The vast majority of Research Activities Credit claims are by corporations, rather than individuals; by big corporations, rather than entrepreneurs; and paid out as checks, rather than to reduce taxes. The cost in 2013: over $53 million.

Iowa and Its Notoriously (?) Low Business Taxes
Not that you're likely to hear it in what has become common political talk, but Iowa — again — is shown to have taxes on business that are in the middle of the pack or below the national average.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder. 3/5/14. NEW!
Or 2-page PDF.



Iowa's Budget Dilemma for 2014
Setting a Sustainable Course Against a Tide of Giveaways
Iowa lawmakers must recognize the long-term impact of tax cuts on spending choices. Past choices will force future legislatures to lower investments on critical services on which economic growth depends.
Read our Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder. 1/13/14. NEW!

Two high points emerge from the Governor's Condition of the State address: a second year of tuition freeze, and no apparent push for new general tax cuts that Iowa cannot afford.
Read our Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement. 1/14/14. NEW!

Public Pensions in Perspective
Why Foundations of Iowa, Many State Pension Systems are Strong
Iowa‘s public pension systems are strong and healthy, working as intended to assure retirement security to thousands of Iowans.
Read policy brief by Imran Farooqi, Peter Fisher and David Osterberg. (33 pages) 12/12/13. NEW!
Read executive summary. (or 5-page PDF)
Read news release.

Read David Osterberg's guest opinion in the Cedar Rapids Gazette 12/15/16
Hear Osterberg on the Devine Intervention, KVFD-AM Fort Dodge 12/12/16

A stable and durable public pension system, efficiently managed and funded, is important to employees, employers, the state, and the economy.

Child Care: Sometimes Like Falling Off a Cliff
Trying to Get Ahead with the Help of Iowa’s Child Care Assistance Program
Peter FisherIowans can fall off an income cliff when even a minimal pay increase costs them child care assistance — one challenge for low-income working families.
Read policy brief by Peter Fisher. 12/9/13. NEW!

High Cost of Child Care in Iowa Now a Barrier to the Middle Class
Lily FrenchIowa’s child care assistance programs should encourage parents to further their education and make it more possible to achieve self-sufficiency, according to a new report.
Read policy brief by Lily French and Peter Fisher. 11/26/13.
Read executive summary or 2-pg PDF.
Read news release.


percent containers recycled graph How the EITC Hits Home
in Iowa, District by District
One out of every six Iowa households benefits from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, bringing $412 million into the state economy in 2010 alone. The golder and greener the spots on the map at right, the greater the use of the credit by moderate- and low-income working families.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership Backgrounder. 5/14/13

How much working families need a boost from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can be seen in light of the actual costs of raising a family in Iowa.
Read our Iowa Fiscal Partnership Backgrounder. 4/5/13

Iowa's Budget Priorities: Still Focused on Tax Cuts

Watch for Lasting Effects of Late Deals on Future Services
“Over the long term, the late-session deals may force lower expectations in Iowa for critical services. Forward steps were clear: The Medicaid expansion will address needs and protect state revenues, while the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion is an important but small nod to a more equitable income-tax structure. The property-tax reform package, however, will be costly and will challenge cities, counties and schools to deliver what Iowans have come to expect.”
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement. 5/23/13
Hear IPP's Peter Fisher on Mike Devine's "Devine Intervention" program on KVFD-AM 1400, Fort Dodge 5/22/13

New Property-Tax Deal Targets Benefits to Business
It's Christmas for Walmart and McDonald's, which will happily receive property-tax breaks that they don't need, while their low-wage employees receive a better Earned Income Tax Credit. In the balance of who benefits from this package, the long-needed EITC boost is a very small ornament.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement. 5/16/13

Costly Property-Tax Reduction Plans Affect Big, Small Businesses Differently
Property-tax reduction plans in the Iowa House and Senate are costly to local and state services and offer an unnecessary break to businesses.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership policy brief. 4/24/13
See The Des Moines Register editorial. 4/29/13

Amid Plans to Relax Limits, Business Tax Credits Already Growing
The continued growth of Iowa’s business tax expenditures is largely the result of new or expanded credits, increased spending without accountability, sizable uncapped credits and limited review by lawmakers.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership policy brief. 4/16/13

Iowa's Research Credit: Where the Gifts to Big Companies Keep on Coming
The largest recipients of a state research credit shared $28.5 million in subsidy checks as some or all paid no income tax in 2012, according to a new report from the Iowa Department of Revenue.
Read our news release or the Department of Revenue report 2/15/13
Hear IPP's Mike Owen discuss this issue with KVFD's Mike Devine on "The Devine Intervention" 2/20/13

Report Illustrates Iowa's Tax System: More of Each Dollar Earned
at Low Incomes Go to State, Local Taxes greenbikelogo

Who Pays Iowa Taxes?
Iowans Pay Greater Share
at Low, Middle Than Do Rich

“The latest findings confirm a nagging problem of inequity in Iowa’s overall tax system,” said David Osterberg, executive director of IPP, about the new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).
Learn more

How the EITC Hits Home in Iowa, District by District
One out of every six Iowa households benefits from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, bringing $412 million into the state economy in 2010 alone. The greener the spots on the map at right, the greater the use of the credit by moderate- and low-income working families.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership Backgrounder. 5/14/13 NEW!

How much working families need a boost from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can be seen in light of the actual costs of raising a family in Iowa.
Read our Iowa Fiscal Partnership Backgrounder. 4/5/13

Why to Beware of ALEC's ‘Snake Oil’ Policy Ideas — and Why ALEC is Still Wrong
State tax and regulatory policies recommended by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) fail to promote stronger job creation or income growth, and actually predict a worse performance.
Read our report from IPP and Good Jobs First, or the news release 11/28/12
See Peter Fisher's post on Iowa Policy Points
See Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report

‘Eliminating progressive taxes, suppressing wages, and cutting public services are actually a recipe for economic inequality, declining incomes, and undermining public infrastructure and education that really matter for long-term economic growth.’

— IPP's Peter Fisher


snake oil cover
Ending the Never-Ending Spin: ALEC's ‘Tax Myths Debunked’ Misses the Mark
Authors of a new report from ALEC misinterpret our analysis and misuse data, serving only to further confirm the shoddiness of the research sponsored by ALEC.
“In sum, nothing in ‘Tax Myths’ actually undercuts any of the analyses or conclusions in ‘Selling Snake Oil.’”
— Peter Fisher

See Peter Fisher's backgrounder refuting ALEC's defense 2/11/13

Experts Show ALEC Agenda Would Weaken State Economies
Leading state policy experts revealed how the economic policy agenda of ALEC would weaken state economies, hurt working families, and put the interests of corporations and the wealthiest households before the common good.
See Economic Policy Institute news release 2/13/13

Bill MoyersAlso see Erika Eichelberger’s Mother Jones story, promoted by Bill Moyers, who says our study “shows that recommendations from ALEC, the pro-corporate organization we investigate in this ... rebroadcast, have a negative impact on state economies.”

Facts Missing: Problems in New State Employee Pay Report
A contracted study of state employee compensation released by the Iowa Department of Administrative Services is raising questions — including from those of us at the Iowa Policy Project who have been watching this issue for some time.
Read our statement from Peter Fisher or download 1-page PDF 10/30/12
Read our blog post by Mike Owen 10/31/12
Find the state's report here with links to the full report and executive summary

“The problem with the study released today by the state is that it throws out a lot of numbers, but really not a lot of information...” — IPP's Peter Fisher

Apples to Apples: Public Workers Make Less Than Private Peers

Iowa has well-qualified individuals performing important tasks and their compensation is less than that for similarly qualified employees in the private sector. None of Iowa's fiscal challenges result from excessive public employee compensation.
Download full report (PDF)
Read executive summary or news release 2/22/11

Billions vs. Balance: Giving More to Rich, Taking from Poor and Middle
Extending tax breaks for 40 Iowa families inheriting multimillion-dollar estates is a bad idea, especially when combined with other proposals that would end tax improvements used by over 86,000 families just to get by.
Read our news release or download 1-page PDF 10/15/12
Hear IPP's David Osterberg on Mike Devine's "Devine Intervention" program, 1400-AM KVFD 10/17/12

Ryan Budget Would Slash Funds to Iowa
Raising revenue must be part of efforts to reduce federal deficits and prevent the loss to Iowa of billions in funding for education, water and other critical services in coming years.
Read our news release or download 2-page PDF 8/8/12

ALEC's Faulty Rankings: Better Ranking, Worse Performance
The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) purports to offer a guide to state policies that promote economic growth. Yet, it fails to predict economic performance. In fact, the less a state followed ALEC’s prescriptions, the better it fared on key measures.
Read our policy brief or download 3-page PDF 7/24/12

Hear Peter Fisher's interview with Mike Devine of KVFD-AM 1400 Fort Dodge

Iowa's Commitment in Question: Education and Water Quality Funding
Iowa lawmakers took few strides in 2012 toward catching up on long-missed funding commitments to priority Iowa issues in higher education and water quality.
Read Higher Education backgrounder 6/26/12
Read Water Quality backgrounder
Read news release


TIF: Good Start on Reform?
The best that HF2460 offers is better accountability and transparency. In terms of changing the actual practice of TIF, however, the bill is a disappointment.
Read our Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder or download 2-page PDF 5/17/12

See the Iowa Fiscal Partnership TIF Reform page.

Is Iowa Missing Opportunities for Real Economic Development?
Iowa’s approach to economic development has been badly skewed in favor of expensive subsidies aimed at short-term job gains instead of long-term investments in our economy.
Read Iowa's Investments in a Child's First 2,000 Days or download 5-page PDF 4/19/12
Read our news release or download 2-page PDF
early childhood vs biz tax credit spending

Iowa's Challenged Commitment to Higher Education
The combination of increased tuition and decreased state tuition grants and scholarships threatens to put higher education out of reach for many Iowans.
Read Iowa Students: Increasingly on Their Own or download 6-page PDF 4/12/12
Read our news release
Hear Andrew Cannon's interview on Mike Devine's "Devine Intervention" program on KVFD Fort Dodge

Iowa's community colleges can count less on state support than they did 10 years ago, shifting costs to students and parents also trying to make ends meet.
Read Lost Momentum for Iowa's Community Colleges (4-page PDF) 3/22/12
Read our news release

Likewise, state budget cuts have hammered Iowa's Regents institutions, forcing up tuition and fees.
Read Up and Down: Regents' Costs Rise, Funding Drops in Iowa or download 5-page PDF 3/8/12
Read our news release
Hear Andrew Cannon's interview on Mike Devine's "Devine Intervention" program on KVFD Fort Dodge

New Analysis Shows EITC Benefits Across Iowa — by Legislative District
Raising the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit from 7 percent of the federal EITC to 20 percent not only would raise the threshold at which Iowa families start to owe state income taxes, but would boost local economies throughout the state. In fact, the increase would provide an average benefit per House district of almost $550,000, which residents would use in their local economy.
Read our policy brief 4-page PDF 3/29/12

Read EITC: A Hand Up to Working Families, Local Economy 3-page PDF 2/17/12
Read Support for Working Iowa Families or download 3-page PDF 12/29/11

Read Andrew Cannon's guest opinion in the Iowa City Press-Citizen or download 2-page PDF 2/24/12

Tests of this legislative session: TIF reform, and improvements to working-family tax policy and preschool.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement 1/10/12
Common-Sense Context in Budget Decisions for Iowa
The state of Iowa has a lot of catching up to do as lawmakers consider their choices for the Fiscal 2013 budget.
Read about our Iowa Fiscal Partnership policy brief or download report (12-page PDF) 2/7/12
Read Andrew Cannon's post on our Iowa Policy Points blog 2/8/12

Dealing with the Debt: Pieces of the Pie
CBPP deficit graphCenter on Budget and Policy Priorities

A balanced approach to dealing with the federal debt will keep both revenues and spending on the table — including spending made through the tax code, or "tax expenditures." That kind of spending has the very same impact on the budget bottom line — and it was over $1 trillion in 2010, as shown at right. In fact, tax expenditures cost more than Medicare & Medicaid, and more than Social Security.

To judge the work of the "SuperCommittee" and Congress in the coming days, keep in mind that principle, as well as these. No real solution will increase income disparity or make the economic situation worse and cost jobs.

IPP's David Osterberg and Mike Owen made those points at a Heritage Area Agency on Aging forum, "Critical Issues Facing Seniors and People with Disabilities." Click on the graph at right for slides from the presentation November 2 in Cedar Rapids.
11/2/11

For more information and analysis about federal budget issues and impacts on Iowa — click here.

Corporations Escaping Tax Not Only in Iowa, but Other States, Too
Iowa is not the only state losing millions of dollars to corporate tax avoidance, a new report shows.
Read news release or download 2-page PDF 12/7/11

State Budget Choices
Tax-Increment Financing: A Case Study of Johnson County
Abuse of tax-increment financing by cities in Iowa is a statewide problem. Johnson County offers an illustrative case study of why reforms are needed, and which reforms might help.
Download full report 15-page PDF (includes executive summary) 11/21/11
Download executive summary 2-page PDF
Download appendix 9-page PDF (includes maps of nine communities, TIF districts)
Read news release or download 2-page PDF
Read Cedar Rapids Gazette story: "Report critical of use of TIF in Johnson County" 11/21/11

Timely Review for Iowa's Earned Income Tax Credit
A day before a legislative panel reviewed four state tax-credit programs, a new national report put a spotlight on Iowa’s poor treatment of low-income working families.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership news release 11/15/11
Read Des Moines Register story: "Have state tax credits worked for Iowa?" 11/16/11
Governor Branstad's veto of an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit — Missed Opportunity for Iowa
Governor Branstad’s veto of the modest increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) hurts working people and the economy, and was far from the comprehensive tax policy the Governor says he wants.
Read Andrew Cannon's guest opinion in the Sioux City Journal 8/20/11
Read Mike Owen's post on Iowa Policy Points 8/17/11
Read Peter Fisher's guest opinion in the Cedar Rapids Gazette 8/12/11
Read Lily French's guest opinion in the Iowa City Press-Citizen 8/10/11
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement 7/28/11

Talk of austerity, but still room for tax breaks — one legacy of the 2011 legislative session
Despite frequent calls for an austere state budget in 2011, lawmakers enacted a number of tax reductions at the same time there were significant reductions in many programs.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership fact sheet or download (2-pg PDF) 8/4/11

Will Education Funding Hit World-Class Target?
Iowa's growing consensus for educational reform must be matched by a better commitment to fund it than in recent years, Iowa researchers said today.
Read report or download (10-pg PDF) 7/29/11
Read news release

Crunch Time on the State Budget
Even as they spoke of tight budget choices, Iowa lawmakers pushed for a vast expansion of state spending on big businesses through the Targeted Jobs Withholding Tax Credit. The move comes even though the Legislature itself has demanded a review of the credit.
Read policy brief by Andrew Cannon or download 2-pg PDF 6/29/11

Many politicians believe the government closest to the people governs best, but they forget that rhetoric when they choose to unnecessarily tie the hands of local officials in meeting local needs.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder or download 3-pg PDF 6/14/11

Over six weeks into overtime on the legislative session, Iowans do not have a fiscally responsible budget proposal. Making a bad bill less bad is not a good foundation for public policy.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement for public hearing or download 1-pg PDF 6/7/11

Shutdown? What happens if no budget agreement is reached and there is no funding as of July 1?
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder or download 2-pg PDF 6/7/11

Seeking a Balanced Approach

House File 691 would reduce commercial property tax assessments by 40 percent over five years — an unnecessary cut in our already low-tax state. Changes of this magnitude deserve — and Iowans should demand — far more study than they have received.
Read policy brief or download 2-page PDF 5/3/11
See Peter Fisher's guest opinion in the Iowa City Press-Citizen 5/12/11

As Iowa lawmakers head into the final stages of this legislative session, Iowans must remember our state’s fundamental fiscal challenges. We need a balanced approach that assures fiscal prudence and adequate revenues to meet our citizens’ needs. This is no time to be cutting taxes. We cannot afford it.
Read Iowa Fiscal partnership statement 4/26/11

Shared Investment: Tax Day Reflects Our Commitment to Iowa's Prosperity

Our tax dollars work for us. They represent a shared commitment to investing in Iowa’s present and future prosperity. This reality is all too often neglected in discussions about “Tax Day.”
Read backgrounder or download 2-pg PDF 4/13/11
Read Andrew Cannon's oped in the Iowa City Press-Citizen 4/16/11

Here a Tax Break, There a Tax Break — Everywhere a Tax Break
Tax breaks being promoted in the Iowa General Assembly help the wealthiest individuals and corporations, at the same time lawmakers are calling for unnecessary budget cuts.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership policy brief or download 6-page PDF 3/22/11
News release 3/22/11

Latest Tax Reality Check: Yes, Iowa Taxes Still Are Lower than Most
Iowans continue to pay less than the national average for state and local public services, according to the most recent information from the Census of Governments.
Read news release or download backgrounder (3-page PDF) 3/17/11

"For those who believe taxes are important in business and individual decisions on where to locate, these findings should be an important tool to promote economic development in our state."
— Peter Fisher, Iowa Fiscal Partnership


Apples to Apples: Public Workers Make Less Than Private Peers

Iowa has well-qualified individuals performing important tasks and their compensation is less than that for similarly qualified employees in the private sector. None of Iowa's fiscal challenges result from excessive public employee compensation.
Download full report (PDF)
Read executive summary or news release 2/22/11

Setting the Record Straight on Budget Issues

FisherPowerpointClick above for slides
from March 31 presentation
at the University of Iowa

Tax-increment financing with state sales-tax dollars poses many problems. All exist with the proposed sales-tax TIF for Cedar Rapids — as do better alternatives.
Read IFP policy brief 3/30/11

Whether one focuses only on the corporate income tax, or the whole range of taxes falling on business, Iowa's state and local taxes are well below average, and have been for some time.
Read or Download 2 page backgrounder 2/9/11

Several decades of research on the relation between state taxes and growth confirm proponents make overblown and sometimes misleading claims to promote state economic growth with tax cuts..
Download report 11-page PDF 2/9/11

Bad Tax Policy: No Shortage of it in Iowa Legislature

There is no economic rationale for Iowa to adopt the "bonus depreciation" break for businesses, for several reasons. Contrary to politicians' claims, it would not help small businesses, and it would not promote new investment in Iowa — but may reward past investments elsewhere instead. Plus: It is expensive. Nevertheless, both houses of the Legislature appear poised to approve it.
Read backgrounder or download 1-page PDF 3/1/11

Another Tax Cut? Iowa Hasn't Recovered From the Other Ones
House File 194 provides a 20 percent cut in Iowa’s individual income tax rates. The issue is not just that the state of Iowa, recovering from a recession and major cuts to education and other public services, cannot afford such a tax cut and sustain essential public services — though that issue is very real. The problem also is that such a tax cut is very much misdirected, taking Iowa tax policy further down the path of helping the wealthiest the most — a trend building since the mid-1990s.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership policy brief or download 2-page PDF 2/16/11

Tax Credit Showers Benefits on Non-Taxpaying Companies

As unemployment in Iowa neared 7 percent and Iowans coped with steep cuts in critical state and local services, three corporations received over $30 million in corporate subsidy checks from the Iowa Treasury. They are among 133 corporations that paid no state income tax but still received checks from the state.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement or download 1-page PDF file 2/11/11
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder or download 2-page PDF file 2/12/11
Read Department of Revenue report 2-page PDF file 2/11/11
Read Selected Measures of Iowa’s Research and Development Performance by Liesl Eathington and David Swenson 16-page PDF file January 2010

Iowa Budget: The Real Issues in 2011

Iowa needs a balanced approach that includes attention to its revenue drain.
Read Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder or download 2-page PDF file 1/18/11
Read public hearing testimony from IPP's Peter Fisher or download 2-page PDF file 1/18/11

Making Connections: Public Value and Public Dollars

Iowans value their schools, parks, public safety and infrastructure, as well as measures to assure some level of economic security for farmers and families. Yet, threats to these values have surfaced through misleading rhetoric and lost resources. What do the facts show?
Read policy brief or download 6-page PDF 10/6/10
Andrew Cannon guest opinion in The Des Moines Register 10/22/10
Iowa Fiscal Partnership Debate Prep Notebook 10/6/10

Amid Shortfalls, Iowa Falls Short on Tax-Credit Reform

Tax-credit reform efforts by the Iowa Legislature fall well short of its stated goals for better accountability and savings for Iowa taxpayers.
IFP Backgrounder, 2 pages HTML 3/17/10

Some Bad Ideas Just Keep Coming Back: The Sales-Tax TIF Returns

It's a great deal for developers with no public return, but the idea to allow cities to give away state sales tax money is back on the table.
IFP Policy Brief, 4 pages (PDF) 3/1/10

Recovery Legislation a Year Later — Boost to Iowa Economy
Federal recovery dollars for Iowa’s unemployment insurance system boosted the Iowa economy by over $500 million and more than 3,700 jobs in 2009, with continuing benefits into 2010.
Full report, 5 pages PDF 2/25/10
News release, 2 pages PDF or HTML
Andrew Cannon's Iowa Policy Points blog post

In the first year of the federal recovery act, food assistance increases alone have boosted economic activity and income, and saved or created jobs in Iowa.
Full report, 9 pages (PDF) 2/17/10
News release, 2 pages (PDF)
Research Tax Credit Disclosure a Start, But Lacking

The first report designed to shed light on who's getting the state's generous Research Activities Credit is a start toward better accountability, but there's a lot left out.
IFP statement, 2 pages (PDF) 2/15/10
Backgrounder, 1 page (PDF) HTML 2/9/10

Six-year trend in Iowa:
Explosion of spending on tax credits, while revenues stagnate
See IFP statement
1/13/10
See IFP statement 1/08/10
See IFP news release 12/14/09
See IFP news release 12/14/09

Finally: A Review of Secret Subsidies
As Economy Lags, Can Iowa Afford Perks That Don't Work?

Iowa's generous and largely accountable tax-credit structure for business are being reviewed by a panel set up by Governor Culver. The examination is necessary and long overdue, so Iowans and their policy makers can see what is working and what is not.

Iowa Fiscal Partnership reports have illustrated the problem in recent years. A couple of those reports:
The Revenue Roots of Iowa's State Budget Crisis (PDF, 6 pgs) 2/19/09
Iowa Budget Belt-Tightening: Focusing on the Largest Waists Graphs (PDF, 3 pgs) 2/23/09

Voters' Views of Iowa Budget Crisis — and Solutions
Iowans Understand: Can't Fix It With Cuts Alone

Iowa voters by wide margins want a balanced approach to resolving Iowa's budget crisis, with nearly six in 10 favoring some use of taxes and fees in the mix. By about the same margin, Iowa voters believe the wealthiest Iowans and big multistate corporations aren't paying their fair share of taxes.
Voter Views Part 1 (PDF, 4 pg) 12/2/09
Voter Views Part 2 (PDF, 4 pg) 12/8/09
News Release (PDF, 2 pg)

Iowa's Persistent Problem of Equity in State/Local Taxes
Who Pays Iowa Taxes?
Low earners pay 11% of income; Top only 6%
New Report Shows Fairness Problems

Moderate- and low-income Iowans pay more of their income in state and local taxes than the rich do, according to a new report that prompted fresh calls for state income-tax reform.
IFP Data Sheet (PDF, 1 pg) 11/18/09
News Release (PDF, 2 pg)
See the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy's Full 50-State Report.

Stimulus Impact in Iowa
Just What the Doctor Ordered
How Medicaid Funding Through ARRA is Helping Iowa's Economy

Increased Medicaid spending has an economic benefit for the state of Iowa far greater than the federal government’s initial investment — about $1.68 for each dollar invested.
IFP Policy brief (PDF, 5 pg) 11/12/09
News release (PDF, 2 pg)

Budget and Tax Issues: Understanding the 2009 Iowa Tax Reform Plan
Even in the wake of the 2009 legislative session, misinformation remains about the tax-reform plan that recently failed to reach a floor debate in the Iowa General Assembly. Despite claims of the big-business lobby and anti-tax lobby, the vast majority of all Iowa taxpayers particularly at low and moderate incomes, and the vast majority of small-business owners in Iowa, would pay less or see no tax change if the plan were adopted. See several Iowa Fiscal Partnership analysis pieces on facets of the legislation.
Beyond 2010, Tax Cuts at Low, Moderate Incomes Would Continue
Backgrounder (2 pg). (PDF) 4/16/09
Like Most Iowans, Small-Business Owners on Average Would See Benefits
Backgrounder (2 pg). (PDF) 4/14/09
EITC Expansion Would Make Work Pay Better for Iowa Families
Backgrounder (PDF, 2 pg) District-by-district fact sheet. (PDF, 2pg) 4/24/09
Steps Toward Competitiveness, Fairness — Analysis Shows Most Iowans Would Benefit

All Iowans' tax rates would drop, revenues would no longer be tied to federal tax policy, and small businesses, farmers, students and moderate-income households would benefit under proposed tax reforms.
Policy brief (4 pg) (PDF). 4/9/09
Backgrounder on individual tax scenarios (2 pg) (PDF). 4/9/09
Backgrounder showing tax-rate cuts by income (1 pg) (PDF). 4/21/09
News release. 4/9/09
Peter Fisher's op-ed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. 4/9/09
Policy brief (3 pg) (PDF). 3/27/09
Beth Pearson's testimony (1 pg) for House hearing (PDF). 3/31/09
"Focus on Facts" David Osterberg on IowaPolicyPoints.org. 4/2/09

More About Budget and Tax Issues
Please visit the Iowa Fiscal Partnership website for more state tax and budget reports completed in cooperation with the Child and Family Policy Center.
Keep Attention on Services and Revenues
Avoiding Unnecessary Layoffs Important; Revenues Must be Addressed

Iowans need to remember: Services provided by state and local governments help families and the Iowa economy, and the budget crisis cannot be met solely on the spending side of the ledger.
Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement PDF, 1 pg 10/28/09
Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement on governor's action PDF, 1 pg 10/8/09
Iowa Fiscal Partnership statement on revenue estimates PDF, 1 pg 10/7/09

Seduction: The Disaster Story of Iowa's Film Tax Credit
Probe Should Not Overshadow Better Scrutiny Across the Board

Fiscal policy issues raised by the controversy with Iowa's film credit program should be of as much concern as the very serious management issues that have brought on a state investigation. All issues surrounding the credit should be addressed before lawmakers decide whether to reinstate any form of a film development incentive.
5-page report PDF, 1 pg 10/8/09
Iowa Fiscal Partnership statements PDF, 1 pg 10/5/09 PDF, 1 pg 9/21/09

Getting a Grip on Revenues
Updated Revenue Estimate, Fresh Look at Sources, Needed for Budget

There is no magic answer to Iowa's budget problems. This brief — cited in the Aug. 5 editorial in The Des Moines Register — outlines the budget landscape but stresses the need for fresh information.
Backgrounder HTML or PDF, 3 pg 7/31/09
News release PDF, 2 pg

Putting Federal Stimulus Dollars to Work in Iowa
Using Federal Stimulus Funding Over FY2010-11

Dramatically lowered revenue estimates make federal "stimulus" funds especially important to shore up the budget, and where possible, avoid cuts and layoffs that could deepen the recession in Iowa. Policy brief (8 pg) , backgrounder (1 pg) (PDFs). 3/24/09
News release on REC report 3/20/09

A Win-Win: Iowa Stands to Gain from Unemployment Insurance Modernization

Iowa workers would receive about $7.7 million in benefits, but the unemployment insurance program would gain three times as much in federal financing with reforms to modernize Iowa's unemployment insurance sysem. Backgrounder (PDF). 3/11/09

It's the Revenues, Iowans
State Budget Problems Rooted in Revenue Weakness

Understanding the causes of Iowa's current budget crisis is crucial to crafting good policy in response. And Iowans can't understand it unless they look seriously at the revenue roots of the problem. 2/19/09
Report (6 pages, PDF) News release (PDF)

Iowa's Spending Problem: Tax Expenditures on Autopilot

Everyone is talking about tightening belts. Make sure that effort focuses on the largest waists: skyrocketing costs of largely unchecked tax credits for businesses. 2/23/09
Report (3 pages, PDF) News release (PDF)

Responding to the Economic Crisis
How Do You Spell 'State Fiscal Relief' in Iowa?

State fiscal relief from the federal government recognizes that states may not deficit spend — but that state spending can help the economy while serving people in need.
2-page backgrounder PDF. 2/3/09

IPP
Keeping the Hole from Getting Deeper

Iowa policy makers have options to avoid deepening the recession.
4-page backgrounder PDF. 2/3/09

IPP
Local Income Surtaxes Raise Revenue, Allow Local Choice

Local income surtaxes in Iowa, in practice and potential. Includes revenue estimates for 22 Iowa cities.
Backgrounder (PDF). News release (PDF).1/26/09

IPP
From Shortfalls to Cuts — How We Got Here in 2009

Iowa’s budget picture has changed markedly since July. Why? Backgrounder (PDF). 1/16/09

IPP
Assure Everything is on the Table in Budget Balance

Governor Culver wants to assure "everything's on the table" to balance the state budget while upholding investments in a green economy, education and health care. That must include wasteful, secret subsidies to big companies through the tax code.
News release (PDF).1/13/09
Video of Des Moines Register interview with IPP's Peter Fisher.1/22/09
Budget graphs (2-page PDF).1/23/09

IPP
Some Budget Choices Could Compound Recession Impacts

Iowa policy makers should address the state’s budget crunch with choices that do not worsen the recession but do assure scrutiny on seldom-reviewed spending on tax breaks. Open letter to policy makers (5-pg PDF). 1/2/09

IPP
Closing Loopholes, Stopping Wasteful Tax Giveaways Boost Revenues Without Raising Taxes

Corporate giveaways are a good place to look for spending cuts. Briefing paper (3-pg PDF), News release (PDF). 12/10/08

IPP
Revenue Report is Evidence of the Holes in Iowa Revenue Structure

The latest revenue forecast, a deficit for FY09, shows Iowa needs a comprehensive look at its fiscal health. News release (PDF). 12/12/08

IPP
A Task for Iowa Lawmakers

Iowa lawmakers are almost certain to face immediate and severe budget challenges when they reconvene. News release (PDF). 12/10/08

The Facts and the Estate Tax
Evidence Builds Against Myths; Few Iowa Estates Pay as Millions in Wealth Go Untaxed

For the fourth year in a row, fewer than 1 percent of Iowa estates were affected by the federal estate tax in 2007, as shown by the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice. CTJ Report (PDF) and IPP News release (PDF). 12/3/08

Iowa's Aging Population
Report Examines Growing Challenge for State Budget

Health-care and education investments are at risk for Iowa as the state's population becomes proportionately older. Full report (PDF), Executive summary (PDF) and News release (PDF). 12/1/08

Setting Tax Policy for Fairness and Sustainability
City Revenue and Smart Growth

City revenue reform can help encourage sustainable, responsible and fair development. Full report, executive summary, news release. 11/13/08

Ripples from a Revenue Stream: Effects of a 3/8-Cent Tax Increase for Natural Resources
Ripples from a Revenue Stream: Effects of a 3/8-Cent Tax Increase for Natural Resources

Too often in the past, natural resources funding has lost out to state budget cuts or has been raided to pay for other public programs. Any sustainable funding source to correct this problem should also be fair to all Iowa taxpayers How can this be designed? Backgrounder. 11/12/08

Who Pays Iowa Taxes?
As Share of Income, Lower-Income Iowans Pay the Most

Lower-income non-elderly households in Iowa pay a much greater share of their meager incomes in state and local taxes than high-income families pay. Backgrounder. news release. 11/10/08

Flooding in Iowa: A Responsible Response
New Series from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership
Housing Issues Emerge; Prompt But Deliberate Focus Needed

The Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission correctly focuses on a quick and sustained approach to meet housing needs following Iowa's 2008 storm disasters, but misses on one proposed tool by promoting the discredited enterprise zone program. Report, news release 9/4/08

Disaster Poses New Risks to Families Struggling in Already Soft Iowa Economy

Iowa's flood-recovery planning must recognize challenges faced by low-income families, according to a new report that notes low-income flood victims were already at the margins in a sluggish Iowa economy before the floods. Report, news release, fact sheet 8/19/08

 
Property Tax Cuts Poor Tool to Help Flood Victims; Low-Income Emphasis Needed

Tax policy is likely to fail as an efficient or effective response to Iowa's flooding disaster. Property tax responses, especially, miss the mark on key principles for effective policy. Report, news release 8/13/08
Three Ts: Flood responses should be timely, targeted and transitional. Report, news release 8/12/08
Low-income residents were particularly hurt by flooding in Cedar Rapids. Report 8/12/08

IPP
Grounds for Confusion
Iowa Distorts Assessment of Farm Property

Farm buildings and farmland need to be assessed and taxed separately as a first step toward a more understandable and fair system of assessing Iowa farm property. The current system is outdated and doesn't reflect the productivity of modern agricultural operations, say authors of a new Iowa Fiscal Partnership report. Report, executive summary (4 pg), news release 7/16/08

The 7-Cent Swipe
Iowa Windfall: Grocers' Subsidy from Food Stamp Transactions Challenged

Iowa retailers receive a 7-cent fee on every Food Stamp purchase - unlike other electronic transactions, and unlike any other state. Like many generous Iowa business subsidies, its public benefits are not evident. Backgrounder, news release 6/9/08

EZ Money
Enterprise Zones Become 'Monster' Program

Iowa spent about $300 million in enterprise zone (EZ) subsidies from 2003-07 in a “monster” program needing a major overhaul. Read the report, executive summary and the two-page news release 4/21/08
Radio Iowa story or Des Moines Register story

Penny Wise?
Funding School Facilities With a State Sales Tax

Iowa legislators are considering legislation that would switch the existing School Infrastructure Local Option (SILO) sales tax to a statewide penny sales tax. The proposal holds mixed implications for low-income Iowans and tax equity issues in the state. Read the report and the two-page backgrounder 4/4/08

Stopping Scare Tactics
Large Companies Won't Leave If Iowa Treats Them Like Others
A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how large Iowa manufacturers already deal with combined reporting legislation in other states, undermining many big-business claims that closing tax loopholes in Iowa would harm the state's economy. Read the nine-page report and two-page news release. Also see the two-page backgrounder from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership. 4/3/08

Special Focus: Tax-Increment Financing
The Iowa Journal, IPTV
Being Careful with Tax Dollars
Is Tax-Increment Financing a Good Idea for Mall Renovations?

Read Peter Fisher's perspective in The Des Moines Register. Also, see him on IPTV's "Iowa Journal" program, or view the transcript.

A Step Backward in TIF Reform
No Debate — Sales-Tax TIF OK'd, Ignoring Policy Problems

A radical departure from Iowa tax policy allows cities to divert local-option sales-tax money without approval of voters or other jurisdictions that could have expected the funds. Neither the governor nor legislators said why. News release 5/21/08

IPP
April 1, 2008
Improving Tax Fairness in Iowa
Putting Fairness First in Financing Public Services in Iowa
As state legislators close out the 2008 legislative session and confront the tasks of maintaining commitments and investing in Iowa's future, they will have to finance their budget. Each financing decision has a different set of consequences for Iowans at different income levels. It is crucial to remember a basic principle of taxation: fairness. Read the three-page backgrounder.

How Improving the State EITC Can Improve Tax Fairness

On issues of tax fairness, Iowa's personal income tax system falls most short in its tax treatment of families with children. In fact, Iowa's income tax system is the most skewed against families with children of any state income tax system in the country. Expanding Iowa's Earned Income Tax Credit can improve the lot of those families. Read the two-page backgrounder.

March 6, 2008
A Capital (Gains) Offense
Unnoticed But Lasting Change Undermines Iowa's Tax Code

The research is in and the data are clear: Iowa's outdated, and increasingly leaky, tax code needs reform. Over time, special provisions have been incorporated to give advantage to different special interests, while tax accountants and attorneys have found ways to manipulate the code to help their clients escape taxes. A prime example of how our tax code has been skewed to benefit the wealthy: Iowa's special treatment of capital gains. Read the two-page backgrounder.

Feb. 27, 2008
Iowa's Tax Credit Bonanza
Open Ends and Closed Books: How Iowa Is Giving Away the Farm

Rapid growth in the adoption and use of tax credits are contributing to an unsustainable, structurally imbalanced budget in Iowa, suggesting lawmakers should take a step back and immediately (1) provides for public disclosure of the beneficiaries of all business-directed tax credits; (2) revise and limit existing tax credits; and (3) establish a moratorium on the enactment of any additional tax credits. Read the two-page backgrounder.

Feb. 4, 2008
Accountability to Iowa Taxpayers
Examining Research Credit Offers Leadership Opportunities
A new report from the Iowa Department of Revenue provides important new information about the size and growth of the state's Research Activities Credit (RAC). Most of the $263 million since the credit was created in 1985 has gone to a small number of large multistate corporations. In fact, sometimes companies have received a check from the state instead of paying state income tax as a result of the credit. Read the backgrounder and the press release from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

Plugging Loopholes Could Save Iowa Millions - and Improve Fairness to Small Business

Iowa law allows multistate corporations to unilaterally cut their own taxes, putting their Main Street competitors in Iowa at a disadvantage. Read the backgrounder.

Also see a map of states that have cracked down on corporate tax loopholes with something called "combined reporting," and the press release.

Jan. 15, 2008
Governor Sets Strong Goal for Tax Fairness
Closing Corporate Loopholes Would Help Iowa's Businesses, Treasury

Long overdue reforms to make business taxes more fair to Iowa-based firms and to improve recycling efforts are part of Gov. Chet Culver's proposals in his "Condition of the State" message. Read the press release.

Oct. 25, 2007
Documenting the Undocumented
Undocumented Immigrants Pay Iowa Taxes, New Report Notes
Undocumented immigrant families pay less in state taxes than families at similar incomes in Iowa. However, they do contribute over $40 million to state coffers and they receive fewer services. A new report finds that discussions focusing only on costs of undocumented immigrants can miss a big piece of the fiscal equation. Read the full report, executive summary or press release.

See the KCRG-TV report, and coverage from Radio Iowa, The Des Moines Register and Quad-City Times, and hear IPP's Beth Pearson and David Osterberg on WHO Radio's "Mickelson in the Morning" program.

From Our Archives
April 24, 2007
Tracking Tax Giveaways
Earthpark Plan Raises Significant Policy Questions
A new two-page backgrounder from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership notes key questions that need to be examined about proposals for state assistance to Earthpark and a related tourism complex near Pella. Read the Backgrounder.
April 11, 2007
Leveling the Playing Field
Plugging Wal-Mart Loophole Would Save Iowa Millions
Closing corporate tax loopholes could save Iowa up to $100 million a year and even the playing field for Iowa businesses against multistate competitors such as Wal-Mart. Full report, news release.
March 14, 2007
How the EITC Hits Home
Where Iowans Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit
Some 168,000 Iowa families receive an average benefit of $1,630 from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. In this report, we show how many families benefit and by how much for each state House district. Backgrounder.
March 13, 2007
Next Piece of the Puzzle
After Minimum Wage, Iowa Looks at Earned Income Tax Credit
With the new minimum wage set to take effect, lawmakers are considering the next piece of the puzzle in making work pay for low-income Iowans: an expanded state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Backgrounder.
February 22, 2007
Falling Below Average
Why Iowa Taxes are Competitive
Iowans pay less than the national average for state services, according to new Census information that provides the latest evidence of Iowa’s competitive standing. News release, full report.
November 28, 2006
Restoring Fairness and Revenue
Reform Measures for Iowa's Corporate Income Tax
Iowa’s corporate income tax has been on the decline for at least two decades. This report explains why and what policy makers can do to fix the problem. Policy brief.
November 27, 2006
Prescriptions and Placebos
Fixing Health Care in Iowa
Comprehensive reform could lead to an expansion of health care in Iowa, benefiting workers, businesses and public health. Piecemeal reform virtually guarantees things will get worse. News release, executive summary, full report.
April 11, 2006
Revitalizing Iowa's Corporate Income Tax
Legislators looking for answers to tight budget challenges could find a partial answer right in front of them: Reviving the corporate income tax. By closing tax loopholes that benefit the largest corporations, legislators could also put Iowa businesses on equal footing with their out-of-state competition. News release, executive summary, full report.
February 22, 2006
Untaxing Seniors: A 'Solution' in Search of a Problem
New research affirms that proposed income-tax breaks for seniors offer to solve a problem that doesn't exist. So few seniors leave Iowa for tax reasons that proposed changes will cost about $450,000 a year per senior. Read the Full Report, Press Release, February 2006 Backgrounder, and May 2006 Backgrounder.

**UPDATE** Recently enacted tax legislation means more complexities when seniors pay state income taxes. Peter Fisher explains how Iowa's seniors will be taxed beginning in 2007 in this June 2006 Backgrounder.
January 24, 2006
Securing Iowa's Economic Future
Strengthening Skills, Work Supports and Economic Security for Working Families
Iowa public policies often do not support hard-working families to achieve economic security; while spending a great deal to stimulate business, Iowa's investments in working families have lagged. Full report, executive summary, news release, slide presentation (pdf).
January 9, 2006
Older Iowans, Economic Security, and State Fiscal Policy
Under current Iowa law, retired Iowans already receive preferential treatment for both Social Security income and pension benefits. This backgrounder cautions about the potential impact on services for seniors if these tax preferences are further expanded. Read the Handout from Peter Fisher's January 16 presentation to state legislators.
April 19, 2005
Iowa's Personal Income Tax: Reform for Iowans at Any Age
Iowa’s personal income tax system already treats retirees generously. Read the news release and report.
Our Vanishing Budgets
A series of reports on Iowa's Fiscal Crisis
Read Our Vanishing Budgets (executive summaries of all reports)
January 13, 2005
A Chronic Budget Crisis: Can Iowa Keeps its Promises?
Budget deficits will hobble Iowa as long as legislators avoid a long-term solution. News release, executive summary, full report.
 
December 15, 2004
Iowa's State Fiscal Crisis and Its Impact on Local Government
City and county governments have made tough choices as they struggled to deal with cuts in state support, a stagnant property tax base and rising health insurance costs. News release, executive summary, full report.
 
December 10, 2004
Iowa's State Fiscal Crisis and Its Impact on Human Services
While the demand for human services increased during the recession, the state reduced its overall investments, particularly in child welfare and mental health. News release, executive summary, full report.
 
November 22, 2004
Iowa's State Fiscal Crisis and Its Impact on Education
Education at all levels has suffered from recent budget cutbacks. News release, executive summary, full report.
 
September 29, 2004
The State Fiscal Crisis: Comparing Responses of Iowa and Other States
Iowa's handling of the recent fiscal crunch differed markedly from other states as Iowa opted to cut revenues at a time services already were being threatened. News release, full report.
September 27, 2004
Average by Any Measure: State and Local Taxes in Iowa
No matter how you cut it, Iowa's taxes are about average. Full report.
September 1, 2004
Special Challenges for Special Session
Iowa legislators need to keep job quality and fiscal responsibility in mind next week when they return for a special session to restore the Grow Iowa Values Fund. News release.
July 26, 2004
Whose Bonus? No Rationale for Adopting Federal Depreciation Options
A new tax break for corporations being negotiated in a possible special session of the Iowa Legislature may offer false promise to help the state economy. News release, full report.
July 9, 2004
Iowa Taxes on Social Security Benefits: The Facts
Key facts to keep in mind as Iowa legislators are talking about reviving a proposal to eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits for high-income taxpayers. Fact sheet.
June 18, 2004
Rethinking Iowa's Personal Income Tax
Iowa income taxes could be made more fair and more simple if legislators are inclined to seriously address tax policy. Full report, news release.
April 1, 2004
Property Tax Assessment in Iowa: Changes with HF692
A new property tax law on the books in Iowa is unworkable and based on faulty assumptions.Executive summary/full report, news release.
March 8, 2004
Iowa Voters and Taxes
Across party lines and income groups, Iowa voters overwhelmingly view the state's tax system as unfair and inadequate to fund priorities. Full report, news release.
February 4, 2004
Everything You Wanted to Know About Closing Tax Loopholes ...
But Were Afraid to Ask. One option to address Iowa's recent budget challenges is to examine tax loopholes that do not serve a public purpose. Full report.
October 21, 2003
What Would Real Tax Reform Look Like in Iowa?
Real tax reform is examined in the context of seven tax principles. Full report.
June 13, 2003
Proposed Iowa Tax Cuts Geared to Wealthiest
Sixty cents of every dollar would go to the wealthiest 20 percent of Iowa taxpayers with income-tax cuts passed by the Iowa Legislature. News release. View Tax Chart 1 and Tax Chart 2.
May 15, 2003
Myths vs. Reality: Tax Cuts and Economic Growth
Policy makers who are serious about improving the state's economy will turn away from tax and budget cuts and toward investments in public services. News release, full report.
April 29, 2003
The Merits of a Cigarette Tax, with Alternative Tax Offsets
Reducing taxes on retirement income to compensate for a cigarette tax increase would create new equity problems, but policy makers could ease those problems with other alternatives. News release, full report.
April 21, 2003
How to Balance the Budget by Cutting Tax Preferences
Iowa researchers have identified six areas where the state could save up to $200 million by closing tax loopholes. News release, full report, executive summary.
April 14, 2003
State Budget Implications of Prison Growth in Iowa
More discretion on sentencing and greater use of community-based corrections in Iowa would be sensible responses to the challenges caused by greater prison populations and tight budgets. News release, executive summary, full report. View Chart 1 and Chart 2.
April 9, 2003
Tax Increment Financing in Iowa: What Should Be Done?
A moratorium on tax-increment financing in Iowa would set the stage for TIF reforms to assure accountability and benefits to residents and taxpayers.  Press ReleaseExecutive Summary and Full Report.
March 14, 2003
Flat Taxes Not So Simple
Moves to simplify Iowa taxes may not only fail to make filing simple, but also may raise new fairness and revenue issues. Press Release and Full Report (by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy).
February 10, 2003
Average by Any Measure: State and Local Taxes in Iowa
Iowans pay less in state and local taxes than the national average. "Iowa is not a high-tax state," says Peter Fisher. News release, full report.
January 7, 2003
Iowa Taxes: Who Pays?
A new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy examines the burden of state taxes for families in all 50 states. News release, chart, table.
January 22, 2002
Tax Policy & Economic Growth in Iowa: Who Gained in the 1990s?
Wealthy Iowans made the biggest income gains while capturing the net benefits of changes in tax policy in the 1990s. News release, full report.
January 16,  2001
Expanding the Social Security Benefit Exemption Under the Iowa Income Tax
This report provides an analysis of the legislative proposal to exempt upper income retirees from paying Iowa income taxes on their Social Security benefits. Full report.