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While you're waiting for tonight's election returns, check out the television commercial Governor Chet Culver's campaign launched today:
Like the commercial Culver ran last month, this ad emphasizes that the governor cut spending and his own salary in order to balance the state budget during this recession without raising taxes. I think the ad is well-crafted in terms of script and visuals, but like Bleeding Heartland users IowaVoter and dricey, I am concerned when Democrats rely heavily on Republican anti-tax messaging. Culver may be reinforcing conservative frames and limiting his future policy options if he does win re-election.
Gov. Chet Culver vowed to balance the state budget without raising taxes. And yet a third or more of Iowa school districts might end up raising property taxes as a direct result of the cut to state school aid ordered by Culver.
Is the governor breaking his promise? Well, no. And yes.
When Culver talks about avoiding a tax increase, he really means income and sales taxes - the two major revenue streams for the state. He's referring to tax increases that he would have to sign into law. In that sense, he hasn't raised taxes.
But he acknowledges that property taxes are a concern. Culver says he'll ask the Legislature next year to require school districts to use their cash reserves before raising taxes.
Republicans are already blaming Democrats for the property tax increases many Iowans will experience next year. Their outrage is hypocritical, because the state cuts affecting education and local governments would have been far more severe if not for the federal stimulus bill, which included aid to state governments. Of course, Republicans denounced the stimulus package and bashed Culver for using these federal funds for their intended purpose: to help backfill the 2009 budget.
In any event, Democrats should be wary about staking next year's campaign on "we didn't raise your taxes during this recession." That won't be a comforting message to Iowans who have to pay a larger property tax bill in September 2010.