Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 13, 2010

Sullivan’s Salvos 11/16/10

In this edition:

*National Adoption Month
*Conservation Ballot Issue
*No Need to Fear Inheritance Taxes!
*Did You Know?

*National Adoption Month
November has been named National Adoption Month and November 20th National Adoption Day.

The need out there is tremendous. In Johnson County alone, there are between 100 and 150 kids in foster care every day. There are nowhere near enough foster and adoptive homes to meet the need.

As many of you know, Melissa and I are the parents of three adopted children. We also continue to serve as foster parents.

It has been a life full of tragedies and triumphs. It has not always been easy, but it has been indescribably fulfilling. Along with marrying my wife, it is the best decision I ever made.

If you or someone you know is interested in foster care and/or adoption, please let me know. I am always happy to speak with prospective parents.

*Conservation Ballot Issue
On November 2, Iowans voted for “Iowa’s Land Legacy”, a conservation measure that dedicates to conservation the first 3/8 of one cent of Iowa’s next sales tax increase.

As Salvos readers know, I opposed this measure. Not because I oppose conservation; nothing could be further from the truth!

I opposed this because 1.) I do not believe the Iowa Constitution should be used to set spending policy; and 2.) I do not believe governments should increase their reliance on sales taxes, which unfairly target the poor.

That said, it will be nice to see conservation in Iowa get a boost. I recently had an opportunity to review the statewide numbers, and discovered some interesting items:

*Statewide, 63% of the voters chose “Yes”. Ten out of every eleven voters actually voted on the issue.

*Johnson County passed it with the highest percentage in the state – 76%, almost 3% higher than any other county.

*Urban counties voted for it in the highest numbers; 12 of the top 13 “Yes” percentages come from among Iowa’s 20 most populous counties. Linn had the lowest “Yes” vote of any urban county, and it was 57%.

*78 of Iowa’s 99 counties voted over 50% for the measure; only 2 counties (Allamakee and Wayne) voted under 40%. Allamakee is an interesting case – no county has more preserved land. Perhaps voters there suffer from an overabundance of riches?

*18 of the 21 counties that voted against the measure have lost population in the past ten years.

Congratulations to those who supported this measure. I hope the supporters of conservation use this money wisely! And I hope they will note my concerns… we should take neither the Constitution nor economic justice lightly!

*No Need to Fear Inheritance Taxes!
Very few Iowans have anything to fear in terms of inheritance taxes. According to Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), only 0.3% of Iowa’s estates paid any inheritance tax in 2009. In other words, of the 10,000 Iowans who passed away, the tax only hit 30 estates.

A progressive estate tax is typically justified on moral grounds. CTJ feels that it is easy to justify the tax for other reasons. They write:
“The estate tax is a way of acknowledging that the wealthiest families benefit the most from the government’s protection of private property, public investments like roads that make commerce possible and public schools that provide a productive workforce, the stability provided by our legal system and armed forces, and the countless other ways that government makes America a place where huge fortunes can be earned and maintained.”

A common myth is that estate taxes hurt family farms. CTJ counters: Small business estates are defined as those in which farm and business assets represent at least half of the gross estate and total no more than $5 million. Using this definition, it was estimated that only 100 US farms and small business estates would have owed any estate tax this year if the 2009 exemption levels had been in effect.

Even if Congress allowed the estate tax to revert entirely to the pre-Bush rules, there would still be plenty of provisions that make the estate tax manageable for closely held businesses and farms. Family farms receive a higher exemption and can be valued, for estate tax purposes, according to their “current use” as farmland, which may be much less than their market value.

Finally, the tax due on an estate that is a closely held business or farm can be paid over 14 years.

Proposals to exempt large or unlimited amounts of farmland from the estate tax would, if enacted, serve as major vehicles for wealthy people who are not really farmers to shelter their assets from the estate tax. In fact, such provisions could actually harm genuine farmers because they would encourage wealthy people to convert all sorts of assets into farmland, which would drive up the price of land for those who genuinely make a living from farming.”

Thanks to CTJ for all the research on this topic.

*DID YOU KNOW? North Liberty would be the largest city in 81 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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