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Farm Bureau says end property tax financing of mental health system

DES MOINES — Lobbyists from business groups used a public hearing in the governor’s office to tout proposals that would improve and expand affordable housing and child care options for working parents.

“We know that we have to get kind of in the weeds now,” said J.D. Davis, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, “and when we talk to our members throughout the state of Iowa, in some places it’s housing; in some places, it’s child care and we look forward to working on those issues and solving those with others that are experiencing the same issues that we have.”

Iowa Chamber Alliance executive director Dustin Miller said his group supports an increase in the state tax credits for workforce housing.

“And I don’t think it gets mentioned enough, but the historic preservation tax credit in urban and rural settings has the ability to impact housing as well,” he said.

Other lobbyists who spoke at Tuesday afternoon’s hour-long public hearing addressed issues like criminal justice reform and expanding the sale of bio-fuels. Kevin Kuhle of the Iowa Farm Bureau urged the governor to change the way mental health services are financed.

“Mental health funding should be included in the state budget and remove this cost from property taxes. Iowa is one of only a handful of states where property taxpayers fund mental health services, creating inequities for property taxpayers,”Kuhle said. “Now is the time to transition to an equitable funding source, with the state assuming the costs of the mental health system.”

After the hearing, Governor Reynolds told reporters while she’d consider increasing state spending on the system, she believes property taxes should continue to support mental health services — and some counties may have to increase their levies.

“We’re taking all of those things into consideration when we try to figure out what is a sustainable funding mechanism for…both adult and children mental health services,” Reynolds said.

Representatives from Des Moines University asked the governor to continue state funding for courses to help medical students recognize and treat mentally ill patients.

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