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State help for Field of Dreams project clears Senate

Rod Boshart, CR Gazette –

DES MOINES – Legislation offering a sales tax rebate to a company planning a $38 million investment in the Field of Dreams near Dyersville reached home plate with the Iowa Senate Tuesday.

Senators voted 34-14 to approve Senate File 2329, a measure designed to provide a tax rebate of up to $16.5 million to the owners of the sprawling Eastern Iowa cornfields made famous by the movie “Field of Dreams” who want to preserve the site’s baseball legacy.

The company, Go the Distance Baseball LLC, plans to develop the 193-acre site near Dyersville as a $38.4 million baseball and softball complex. The prospective buyers plan to purchase the farmhouse and baseball field featured in the 1989 film, along with surrounding land, as a site to build the “All-Star Ballpark Heaven,” a complex of 24 baseball and softball diamonds, an indoor training facility and lodging that would draw teams from all around to compete in major tournaments.

“This is about fun and family,” said Sen. Tom Hancock, D-Epworth.

S.F. 2329 authorizes the Iowa Department of Revenue to rebate sales tax collected by retailers on purchases made at a baseball and softball tournament facility and movie site. The bill’s language is crafted to apply only to the Dyersville project, stating that construction on the facility must commence not later than one year following the enactment of the bill and the cost of the construction must be at least $38 million.

The rebate of sales tax only applies to the sales tax collected on transactions occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2014, and before Jan. 1, 2024, and shall only be paid from the baseball and softball tournament facility and movie site sales tax rebate fund created in the bill. Backers said the provisions are similar to an incentive package the General Assembly approved for the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

The project is projected to create 506 jobs and generate $47 million in economic activity via tourism spending at restaurants, hotels and other spinoff retail activity. During Tuesday’s Senate debate, Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, the bill’s floor manager, pegged the full-time jobs at 1,200 connected to a project he said “hit one out of the park.”

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, unsuccessfully offered an amendment to prohibit the owners from seeking other state grants, noting that taxpayer money would be financing up to 43 percent of the initial investment and the arrangement was improperly being called a rebate because that implies taxpayers would be getting money back when they’re not. He also noted that the movie character, Ray Kinsella, invested his own money after he heard a voice tell him to “build it and they will come.”

“He didn’t do it with taxpayer money. He didn’t do it with a bailout. He did it with his own money,” Chelgren said.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

In other action, senators voted 48-0 to provide a tax credit designed to promote more donations to emergency food banks.

Senate File 2327, which would take effect next Jan. 1, establishes a farm-to-food donation tax credit against individual or corporate income taxes that could be claimed by the taxpayer who produces the food. Under the program administered by the state Department of Revenue, a taxpayer may claim a tax credit for 10 percent of the value of donated commodities up to $5,000. The bill requires that the commodities be suitable for human consumption and be donated to Iowa food banks or other Iowa emergency feeding organizations.

Also, senators voted 48-0 to authorize income tax check-offs for the child abuse prevention program fund, and for the combined veterans trust fund and volunteer fire fighter preparedness fund retroactively to last Jan. 1 under Senate File 2325. The Iowa Code limits to four the number of income tax check-offs that can appear on the income tax return, with the check-offs for the fish and wildlife fund and the Iowa State Fair fund to continue.

And finally, the Senate voted 48-0 to send Gov. Terry Branstad a bill (Senate File 2208) which provides that arrest warrants issued in Iowa would not be considered confidential once a defendant has made an initial appearance in court. Senators accepted a House change that would allow courts to order warrants to remain confidential.

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