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Iowa Voters Hope Tax Hike Won't Take Down Casino

February 10, 2011, 9:48 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Iowa Voters Hope Tax Hike Won't Take Down Casino
LARCHWOOD, IA - The new Grand Falls Casino could be dealt a bad hand before it even opens.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad wants to bring more businesses and jobs to the state by cutting the corporate tax in half. But, to make up the difference he wants to increase taxes on all of the casino revenues in the state from 22 percent to 36 percent.

Developers of the Grand Falls Casino say the hike would jeopardize their project because they would end up paying $8 million more in taxes every year.

"It's not the time for tax increases on anything. To have something like this to come out, particularly of this magnitude, just seems to be unfair on anyone whether it's the gaming industry, or any other type of industry or individual," Grand Falls Project Manager Steve Leavitt said.

Casino officials from across Iowa plan to meet with Governor Branstad about his proposal next week, but those banking on the added revenue and jobs the Grand Falls Casino could bring hope the tax proposal doesn't halt progress on the project. 

When its up and running the Grand Falls Casino will bring 700 jobs and millions of dollars in local revenue for the area. 

Dean McMartin lives in nearby Larchwood and says he's looking forward to Lyon county's newest attraction opening up this summer.

"They're moving right along. I think it's going to be a great facility," McMartin said.

Even though the Grand Falls Casino just down the road is ahead of schedule he hopes a snag from the state doesn't put the project on ice. 

"There's a lot of jobs to be gained, a lot of people to work in that casino, that's money that turns over several times in a community. A community the size of Larchwood, we'll take all those dollars we can get," McMartin said.

The project is even getting support from voters who opposed it before.

"I don't agree with it. I'm not for the project myself," Lyon county resident George Meyer said.

Meyer says it would be a shame to see the developers come this far on the casino and have to stop construction.

"It's going to be tough for somebody all the money they invested," Meyer said.

And that's why Lyon county residents hope the governor and the state's casino officials can work out a deal that's a win for everyone.

"A compromise hopefully that will allow the economic development of the casino to continue, but also raise a little extra money for the state," McMartin said.

Governor Branstad's communications director says the governor is always willing to talk with groups about his proposals, and obviously there is give and take during the legislative session. But, he says the governor is firm on cutting corporate taxes in half to bring in new business, and this is how he hopes to pay for it.

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