Iowa

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Iowa Legislature Approves Watered-Down Sports Tax Incentive Bill

4 May, 2016

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Iowa has a powerfully romantic relationship with baseball. While the sport’s birthplace may be New York, pioneers streaming westward in the mid-1880s brought baseball with them, and the state’s wide-open spaces were perfect for America’s game. The movie “Field of Dreams” was set in Iowa, and the image of a baseball diamond in a cornfield is part of the American psyche now. Hundreds of major league baseball players originally hailed from Iowa.

The state of Iowa would like to see more baseball take place within its borders. The state House Ways and Means Committee recently approved a tax incentive for the development of baseball and softball fields in an 18-6 vote. The initiative would have allowed Prospect Meadows in Linn County and similar developments, such as the Field of Dreams near Dyersville, to be eligible for a sales tax rebate on future revenue of up to $2.5 million over 10 years, according to the Quad City Times. With the rebate, Prospect Meadows would have been able to create eight softball fields, eight baseball fields and one “miracle field” for developmentally disabled players. The program was plugged as a project that would bring in some of the nation’s top high school baseball players, along with their families and a large boost to the hotel, restaurant and other tourist businesses. It would also attract scouts for professional and college baseball teams, according to its supporters.

“Projects such as Prospect Meadows and Field of Dreams could keep the state’s portion of sales tax — 5 cents — generated by sales at the facilities,” wrote the paper’s Des Moines Bureau. “While that would be a negative impact on the general fund, local option sales taxes and school infrastructure sales tax would not be affected.”

Not everyone was a fan of the plan, however, and the Iowa State Senate rejected the House plan in favor of a more scaled down version that limits the tax incentive to just two projects. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said the reconfigured bill calls for state economic development officials to screen the applications and award the tax breaks, according to Radio Iowa.

“The way the original bill was written, they would just automatically get it,” Dotzler said. “And that ain’t a right thing to do.”

While the lion’s share of the opposition was from Iowa Democrats, some objections were raised by Republicans. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, said when legislators vote to give financial incentives to projects like this, it may not send the right signal to potential investors.

“These organizations, these lobbyists who come to us and say: ‘I really need you to do this so I can pitch my sale better,’ we are tacitly giving our endorsements to these,” Chelgren told Radio Iowa.

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