Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2016

How steep is our fiscal cliff?

By Bill Gray

By BILL GRAY

Mt. Pleasant News

Are we better off tax-wise living in Henry County and southeast Iowa than the rest of the nation? Or is the cliff just as steep here as it is in Los Angeles or Boise or New York City?

Tough to tell, but I like our chances here. Some areas of our nation have advantages we don’t, that’s for certain. But having an industrial base, and healthy agriculture economy plus good transportation to allow workers to commute – those are assets we have that most areas envy.

I was privileged recently to be part of the preliminary process that led to the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance’s decision-making regarding upcoming lobbying efforts towards state and federal government entities. The Chamber’s leadership is honing in on familiar themes for the state of Iowa’s upcoming Legislative session, including improvements in education, taxation and economic development.

Goodness knows, we all grouse about, “Why doesn’t the Chamber do/not do blah-blah-blah” from time to time. Yet for Henry County – and yes, for you folks in the rural areas as well as the communities of New London to Swedesburg and everything in between – the Chamber is the best vehicle we’ve got to be heard as one voice on state and national issues.

So the downside of being that “best vehicle” is that we’re tempted to “blame the messenger” when we can’t seem to hold ourselves back from the fiscal cliffs of our government’s meanderings. Of course, there is plenty of blame to share when things don’t go right in a representative government.

The words of the late, great Walt Kelly apply:

We have seen the enemy, and he is us.

So we’re a part of the problem, and we need to be part of the solution instead. When is that not the case? So how come we forget that fact so often?

As far as playing its lobbying role in 2013, Chamber leaders are aligning themselves with Gov. Terry Branstad’s education proposals that bogged down in last year’s Legislature. I have issues with some of what Brandstad touts, but as the first and only comprehensive state education proposal the state has seen for a long time, at the very least it can serve as a template for action.

As for taxation, the Chamber is calling for a comprehensive look as opposed to tinkering with one tax or another. Some areas of Iowa would like to see commercial property taxes slashed, others are focused on personal property taxes – and somehow, the state needs to make sure any changes or shifts don’t make one segment of our economy worse while favoring another.

As for economic development, one proposal that hones in on Henry County is to seek expansion and support of financial incentives for new or expanding industry. To some degree, our county’s long history of success in this area left the state less sympathetic to our participation in such programs. Times change, and Henry County needs to be able to compete and benefits just as do neighboring counties and regions.

So good on the Chamber Alliance for providing this leadership and that takes advantage of its unique position for Henry County. For those of us within and without this organization, we’ll reserve the right to provide “constructive criticism” (or worse) in the days ahead, but for now, let’s be grateful for this service they provide.