Governor Branstad had harsh words today for Iowa’s public schools who want a penny sales tax extended to benefit school infrastructure projects.
The one-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2029. Schools use the money to back up bonding for everything from building repairs to technology upgrades.
The governor wants to extend the tax, but he wants some of the revenue diverted to water quality.
At his weekly news conference, Branstad lashed out against schools for opposing his plan.
He says under his proposal schools would get the first $10 million of growth every year.
“But they're saying we don't want to do anything for water quality,” Branstad says. [They’re saying] “We want it all.”
The statewide penny tax was passed in 2008 for school infrastructure and property tax relief, and it would take a 2/3 vote of the legislature to change that.
“We're willing to and interested in working with them,” Branstad says. “But we don't think anyone has a right to say we're entitled to this forever.”
Branstad says “big bold changes” don’t always happen in one year, so he’s going to keep working on his proposal.
But school officials say the tax needs to be extended now, even though it doesn’t expire for another 13 years.
“The sales tax expires in 2029,” said Kelli Soyer with the Des Moines Public Schools legislative action team. “But the school board has bonded to that 2029 level, so they wouldn't be able to bond any further.”
Soyer says without the continued penny tax, school repairs and upgrades would fall to the school’s general fund or to higher property taxes.
The Des Moines Public School District receives $30 million a year from the tax.