Terry Branstad’s campaign launched its third television ad today, about a month after his first commercials started running statewide in Iowa. The new commercial depicts Branstad as “the real conservative change we needed then… and now.”
The farm crisis … Budget deficits… Skyrocketing unemployment…
That’s what Terry Branstad faced when he was elected governor.
But this Winnebago County farm kid put his rural values right to work, recruiting thousands of jobs, cutting out half the state agencies and taxes $124 million – leaving us record employment, and a $900 million surplus.
Terry Branstad is the real conservative change we needed then… and NOW.
Time for a reality check.
Branstad was first elected governor near the bottom of one economic cycle (at that time the most severe recession since World War II) and was fortunate to retire near the peak of the Clinton boom years. However, job gains during Branstad’s tenure as governor did not fulfill promises he made during his campaigns.
Iowa reorganized state government in 1985, eliminating some agencies and merging others into larger departments. On the other hand, total state government employment increased from 53,342 in 1983 to 61,400 in 1999. Total receipts in the state’s general fund increased from $1.899 billion in 1983 to $4.881 billion in 1999. That 166 percent increase was more than the rate of inflation during the same period, and Iowa’s population was no larger when Branstad retired than it was when he was first elected.
The huge growth in the general fund budget would not have been possible without various tax increases Branstad signed into law. Increased revenue from two sales tax hikes dwarfed the $124 million in tax cuts highlighted in Branstad’s new commercial. Those cuts came primarily from reducing income and estate taxes, delivering most of the benefits to wealthier Iowa families. Unfortunately, Branstad’s sales tax increases disproportionately hit lower-income families, who spend a greater share of their money on essentials.
Branstad was far from reluctant to raise taxes. He asked the state legislature to increase the sales tax in his very first budget address, within days of being inaugurated in 1983.
I expect Branstad to win the Republican primary on June 8 despite his accountability problem. Bob Vander Plaats is a strong speaker but doesn’t have the financial resources to publicize his case against the former governor. Rod Roberts isn’t trying to make a case against Branstad, as far as I can tell. His function in the campaign seems to be to prevent Vander Plaats from consolidating the conservative vote in the primary.
However, during the general election campaign, Branstad will face an opponent with the resources to compare his record with his rhetoric. I wonder how many conservative Republicans will either stay home in November or check the Libertarian box in the governor’s race.
UPDATE: Kathie Obradovich says the $124 million figure “is the campaign’s calculation of the net result of all the tax changes enacted under Branstad – an overall reduction of $124 million, in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars.” I would like to see a calculation of all the Branstad-era sales and gas tax increases in 2008 dollars. Hint: it would work out to a lot more than $124 million.
SECOND UPDATE: Branstad “had an elective heart procedure” today to put a stent in a partially blocked artery. I hope he feels better soon. His campaign released a statement from his doctor saying, “Governor Branstad should be able to resume his normal campaign schedule within the next few days and should quickly return to his normal lifestyle without limitations. He should be fully capable of performing the activities of a candidate and a Governor.”