People's Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment
Quick Guide to the Amendment and its Important Protections for Iowa Taxpayers
1. Why do we need the People's Right to Vote Amendment?
To give the people of Iowa the final say on taxes, by majority vote in a state general election. Voter approval should be required to increase taxes or fees. Let’s move the taxing power from politicians to the people. It’s your money, not the government’s money!
2. How will this Amendment protect Iowa taxpayers?
It will require voter approval for most tax and fee increases. If total tax and fee increases adopted by the Legislature and Governor in any fiscal year exceed 1% of state general fund revenue in the preceding year, all increases above that limit – starting with the largest increase – will go on the ballot and won’t take effect unless a majority of Iowa voters approve.
3. What increases will require voter approval?
The limit on total increases of all taxes and fees in any fiscal year (1% of general fund revenue) is now about $53 million. Iowa’s many big tax increases in the past 30 years were all larger amounts, so Iowa voters could have approved or rejected each of them if this Amendment had been in force. For example, this Amendment would require voter approval for:
- The last state law that added more brackets to the Iowa income tax.
- Each one-cent increase in the state sales tax.
4. How will this Amendment protect property taxpayers?
It provides 3 new and important protections. Each of these 3 kinds of legislation is counted as a tax increase, so voter approval will be required if the total increases exceed the 1% limit:
- Any state law that requires or even allows local governments to impose or increase any property tax, income tax, or sales tax. (The only exception is the annual law setting the state growth percentage for school aid.)
- Any cut in total state funds transferred to local governments in a fiscal year.
- Any new or increased unfunded state mandate on local governments.
5. Does this Amendment bypass the Legislative process?
No, not in any way. Any tax or fee increase must still be passed by both Houses of the Legislature and signed by the Governor (or passed again over the Governor’s veto). The Amendment adds one more step: the voters’ approval is needed if total tax and fee increases in a fiscal year exceed 1% of state general fund revenue in the preceding fiscal year.
6. When will the people vote on the tax or fee increase?
In the next state general election, held every 2 years in November. This ensures high voter participation, because voter turnout is highest in general elections. This will be a statewide vote, not a local election.
7. What taxes and fees are covered by this Amendment?
All state taxes and fees, plus state laws that increase local property, income, or sales taxes. See #4.
The only exception: motor vehicle registration fees and taxes on motor vehicle fuels, because these are already constitutionally protected and dedicated to the road fund.
8. What kinds of increases will require voter approval? All kinds, if total tax and fee increases in any fiscal year exceed the 1% limit. For example:
- Imposing a new tax or fee;
- Raising a rate or amount;
- Repealing, reducing, or delaying an exemption, deduction, credit, exclusion, reduction, or indexing requirement;
- Broadening the base or scope of a tax or fee in any way; and
- State laws that require or allow higher local property, income, or sales taxes.
9. Why not require voter approval for every tax and fee increase, no matter how small?
That would be even better, but it is not possible now. An Iowa Constitutional Amendment requires Legislative approval, twice. By passing this Amendment, Legislators will give Iowa voters a veto power over all large tax increases. We can’t get the votes in the Legislature to apply it to the small increases too. Many Legislators sincerely believe they need some flexibility to handle revenue shortfalls, and they insist on the exception for total increases of taxes and fees in a fiscal year that don’t exceed 1% of state general fund revenue. Iowans for Tax Relief believes it is wiser to win a very good Amendment that requires voter approval for all large tax increases, rather than insist on a perfect Amendment that can’t be passed.
10. What about emergencies?
The Amendment allows the Governor to request, and the Legislature to adopt by two-thirds vote of both Houses, a specific emergency declaration and an emergency tax increase for only one fiscal year. An emergency tax increase cannot be passed more than four months prior to the beginning of the fiscal year to which it applies. For a fiscal year beginning July 1, an emergency tax increase could not be adopted before March 1.
11. How will the People's Right to Vote Amendment be enforced?
Any citizen or taxpayer can sue to enforce compliance, within 2 years after a tax or fee increase is adopted. The Amendment requires the Iowa Supreme Court to invalidate any increase that should have been submitted to the voters but was not — and to order that all revenue illegally collected be refunded or applied to reduce future taxes.
12. What are the steps to adopt this Amendment?
Because this is an Iowa Constitutional Amendment, these 3 steps are needed: (1) Both Houses of the Iowa Legislature pass the Amendment in 2011 or 2012 (the Governor’s approval is not required). (2) Both Houses of the Legislature again pass the Amendment, without change, in 2013 or 2014. (3) Iowa voters approve the Amendment in the 2014 state general election.
Iowans for Tax Relief
2610 Park Ave.
Muscatine, IA 52761