- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A plan to extend a tax break provided to the Iowa Speedway at Newton moved forward Wednesday in the Iowa House.

The proposal received preliminary approval from a House Ways and Means subcommittee. It will now be subject to committee-level review.

The racetrack in Newton receives a state sales tax rebate that’s set to expire on Jan. 1, 2016. The tax break has been contingent upon 25 percent of Iowa Speedway’s ownership being from Iowa.

Since the Speedway, which opened in 2006, was bought by NASCAR last year, the proposal would remove that requirement. It would extend the tax break by 10 years and would maintain a rebate limit of $12.5 million.

“The Iowa Speedway in its success is very much tied to the success and future of the community of Newton,” said Rep. Daniel Kelley, D-Newton. “I want to do everything I can as a legislator to make sure that connection is strong and puts us all in the best position to move forward.”

Jimmy Small, president of the Iowa Speedway, said the track has realized only about $3.5 million of the $12.5 million limit. He said a tax break extension is necessary for the racetrack to fully realize the cap and continue to expand.

City officials say the tax break extension is needed not only to grow auto racing in Newton, but also to spotlight what central Iowa has to offer.

“It grows and diversifies our quality of life and all of our cultural entertainment opportunities here in the state of Iowa, which in turn grows the economic impact,” said Joseph Jones, a lobbyist with the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

A similar plan to offer a state tax break of up to $2 million to the Knoxville Raceway stalled earlier this session, but Rep. Thomas Sands, R-Wapello, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said he intends to revive the legislation.