Davenport’s legislative priorities, including pension reform, passenger rail funding and responsible property tax reform, fall in line with those of Iowa’s 10 largest cities that lobby as the Metropolitan Coalition.
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said he wants the city’s priorities known as early as possible so they are on legislators’ radar when they return to Des Moines next month. He sent out congratulations to the area’s legislators after last month’s election and included a specific plea to reform public safety pensions as a form of property tax relief.
First and foremost, Davenport wants city contributions to the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System of Iowa capped at 17 percent. Davenport’s pension contribution will increase $7.75 million from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2014.
“I know how important it is to get bills introduced early to be considered by the leadership first,” Gluba said. “We want these five or six things considered.”
Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, who chairs the Metro Coalition, agrees with Gluba that cities need help plugging the growing budget hole caused by the public safety pension costs. Des Moines faces a $2.5 million increase in pension contributions in its next budget.
“You get to thinking about where does the money come from,” Cownie said. “It is an unfunded mandate that we do it, a burden to the taxpayers that we do that.”
Forty-nine Iowa cities, including all of the Metro Coalition members, participate in the public safety pension program.
The coalition has argued the economic importance of its members: Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City, Waterloo and West Des Moines. They generate 36 percent of the jobs in the state and 47 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, according to an Iowa State University study.
Davenport’s priorities for the coalition are:
- Provide $24.8 million for relief to cities’ trust and agency levy that funds public safety pensions.
- Funding for passenger rail from Davenport, through Iowa City to Des Moines and Council Bluffs.
- Fight property tax reform that would move the burden from commercial to residential property.
- Legislation that would allow cities to increase the hotel-motel tax within their city limits as a home rule.
“I want to strongly suggest that each mayor personally ask each legislator from their area to have legislation drafted on the above priorities and have them introduce these bills on the opening day of the next Iowa General Assembly,” Gluba wrote in an email to Metro Coalition lobbyist David Adelman.
More importantly, Cownie said, is that legislators need to work together, adding that potholes aren’t partisan.
“A pothole isn’t a Democrat or Republican,” the Des Moines mayor said. “The posturing that sometimes takes place in partisan politics takes away from the notion that we are trying to work for the improvement in life for all Iowans.
“These guys and women all got elected and are going to serve the Iowa Legislature. It is time for them to roll up their sleeves and improve the lives of all Iowans.”
Davenport’s priorities mirror those of the coalition, also including infrastructure grant assistance, a gas tax increase for road and infrastructure projects and reducing corporate and individual income tax. The coalition also favors no longer publishing public notices in newspapers and keeping traffic cameras.