Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Putting the squeeze on Iowa's casinos

Gov. Terry Branstad's proposal to cut corporate tax rates in half while boosting casino taxes to 36 percent hasn't gained a lot of traction. However, the scheme, intended to spur job growth for small businesses, is getting some pushback from those who fear their jobs will be on the line if casino taxes rise. Casino operators have suggested that  squeezing as much tax revenue out of them as possible will lead to layoffs and even closing some of the 17 state-licensed businesses. (In the case of Isle Casino & Hotel Waterloo, operators and the association that holds its license are warning it could lead to a smaller amount of donations for area projects.) It's a delicious irony that Branstad, who campaigned on a pledge to create 200,000 jobs in Iowa by cutting the corporate tax rate, has that factor complicating his proposal. It's likely that Branstad sees casinos as a "lemon" in economic development terms. Some have argued that casinos don't really help a state's economy, only diverting money that would otherwise be spent on different entertainment options. The casino component of Branstad's plan is intended to fill the revenue gap that will occur with lower corporate tax rates. (And of course, those newly-created jobs will bring in more tax revenue for the state.) Branstad professes not to want to hurt casinos, but believes they have done well enough to handle a little subisdy for his trickle-down experiment. It's easy to imagine, though, that community boosters will side with their area's casino rather than support Branstad's proposal. After all, why trade actual jobs at a local business for the possibility of jobs that might be created by letting some unnamed corporations pay less in taxes? There's no guarentee any lost jobs will appear in your own community. That could make it hard to convinice lawmakers to support the proposal.

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