New Branstad ad airbrushes his record

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.”

Here’s the ad script:

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.”  

Continue Reading...

Steve King has empathy after all (updated)

Representative Steve King doesn’t come across as the most compassionate guy in the world, bragging about opposing aid for Hurricane Katrina victims and questioning the need to stop deporting undocumented Haitian immigrants after last month’s earthquake.

But if you thought King was incapable of feeling empathy, you’re wrong. Over the weekend he spoke to a panel on immigration at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

During his closing remarks, King veered into a complaint about high taxes, and said he could “empathize” with the man who flew a plane into an IRS building last week.

During the question and answer session, the Media Matters staffer asked King to clarify his comment, reminding him of his sworn duty to protect the American people from all sworn enemies, foreign and domestic. In response, said the staffer, King gave a long and convoluted answer about having been personally audited by the IRS, and ended by saying he intended to hold a fundraiser to help people “implode” their local IRS office.

That’s right, King feels empathy for a guy who crashed his plane into a federal building, intending to harm the IRS employees inside. In the process, the man killed a loving family man and longtime federal worker who served two terms in Vietnam.

Following King’s remarks at the CPAC panel, a man with a video camera gave the congressman a chance to clarify his remarks. King dug deeper. (continues after the jump)

Continue Reading...

Sorry, Republicans, Iowans don't think state government is too big

Republicans have complained for years about Democrats allegedly spending too much on “big government,” but a majority of Iowans think state government is about the right size, according to the latest poll by Selzer and Co. for the Des Moines Register. The poll surveyed 805 Iowa adults between January 31 and February 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. Respondents were asked, “In general, do you think the size of state government is too big, about right, or too small?” 52 percent said “about right” and only 39 percent said “too small.”

The Des Moines Register poll also indicates that Iowans would rather tap into the state’s tax reserves, raise fees and perhaps even raise taxes than impose massive service cuts or lay off hundreds of state workers.

The poll tested eleven options for balancing the budget and asked whether that option should be considered, strongly considered or taken off the table. The largest majority (76 percent) said consolidating some state government services should be considered or strongly considered. The Iowa legislature will pass a government reorganization bill this session, but the savings won’t be large enough to avoid other painful budget decisions.

The next largest majority (61 percent) supported considering taking up to $200 million from the state’s cash reserves. But even that probably wouldn’t be enough to balance the 2011 budget.

The other three options that at least half of respondents said should be considered were “increase fines, license fees and other user fees” (53 percent), expand gambling by allowing casinos to host large poker tournaments (51 percent) and raise the sales tax by 1 percent (51 percent).

The Register reported that several political observers found the sales tax numbers most surprising. I was more surprised to see the public evenly divided on raising the income tax. Some 48 percent of respondents said “lawmakers should consider raising state income taxes by a half percentage point; 50 percent said that idea should come off the table.”

The Register’s poll found much less support for “cutting services to thousands of Iowans” (just 33 percent favored considering that option, while 60 percent said it should be taken off the table). Only 42 percent favored considering laying off hundreds of state employees or consolidating school districts. Only 43 percent said legislators should consider eliminating all business tax credits. Just 45 percent said reducing the number of Iowa counties should be on the table.

My point is not that politicians should put blind faith in the wisdom of crowds. I don’t agree with every finding in this poll. I’d rather reduce the number of counties and scrap many business tax credits than raise the sales tax, and I find Iowans’ support for the film tax credit baffling.

The larger message from this poll is that Iowa Democrats should not cower in fear when Republicans bash “big government.” Offered a range of choices for balancing the state budget, most Iowans would prefer not to see services slashed. The Register’s November 2009 poll pointed to the same conclusion, finding broad support for spending increases Democrats have adopted in recent years.

Republicans will be cheered by the portion of Selzer’s latest poll that found one-third of Iowans called themselves supporters of the “tea party” movement, and a majority believe state government is spending too much money. To me that suggests the framing of the budget issue will be critical for this November’s elections. Democrats need to convince voters that they did all they could to find efficiencies in state government without cutting priority areas. If Republicans object, for instance, that the state could have saved tens of millions of dollars by ending the preschool initiative started in 2007, Democrats must point out that doing so would have cut off early childhood education for about 13,000 Iowa kids.

Continue Reading...

Terry Branstad's accountability problem

For a guy who claims to be proud of his record, former governor Terry Branstad sure has a funny way of showing it.

On one issue after another, Branstad takes credit for things he didn’t do and evades responsibility for things he did. So, the governor who kept two sets of books boasts about enacting budget reforms that that other people pushed in response to his fiscal mismanagement.

The governor who used state bonding more than once says that politicians who create debt should be voted out of office.

Pressed on his record of expanding gambling in Iowa, Branstad has suggested he had little choice in the matter: “What was I supposed to do? Over 70% of the people wanted it even though I was personally opposed to it.”

Now Branstad is playing the same game on the Road Use Tax Fund and the idea of eliminating federal deductibility from Iowa’s tax system.

Continue Reading...

Project Destiny Vote Today

(8:43 PM--Polk County voters have rejected Project Destiny. Now we're waiting on Dallas and Warren county results. Could be slow coming from Dallas County, as I've heard they had ballot machine problems.

8:31 PM--Destiny appears to be losing badly, track the news over at Iowa Independent.

7:57 PM--Bumped back up to the top for discussion as the polls start to close. - promoted by Chris Woods)

If you’re a Bleeding Heartland reader in Polk, Warren, or Dallas counties make sure you get out and vote today on the 28E Agreement, more generally known as Project Destiny.

Both desmoinesdem and myself have urged a no vote in previous posts (see here, here, here, and here) but if you want more information before you head out to your polling place, you can read information from Yes to Destiny (supporters) here and from NoLocalOption.com (opponents) here.

Finally, to find your polling location, click here.

Oh, and let us know what turnout is like in your area after you’ve voted.  I’m curious.

Continue Reading...

Union leaders to oppse "Destiny" tax proposal

Desmoinesdem has previously written about Project Destiny–a tricounty joint venture between Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties to increase the sales tax in the three communities by one cent–and urged you to vote against the plan.  And now the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, will announce on Thursday that they plan to oppose the sales tax increase as well.

From an advisory put out today:

“Union leadwers say voters should consider that “basic needs” are not being met in the three-county area. A regressive tax to finance so-called “quality of life” efforts such as bicycle trails, they say, should not take precedence over citizens’ fundamental needs.”

With strong labor opposition, who knows how the effort will fare on election day, July 10th.

Discussing and talking about the proposal is no easy subject.  Almost two weeks ago, CityView’s cover story was dedicated to the debate over Project Destiny.  The story offered more insight on the project, its supporters and opponents than the Register or any other local news stations have offered.  I recommend reading the full story to truly understand the debate behind Project Destiny.

The biggest opposition to the tax comes from taxpayers groups and citizens who feel that the sales tax increase is a regressive move that hits the poorest residents in these three counties the hardest.  And they’re right.  The fact is, the fundamentals for citizens in these areas aren’t even being provided and that is something that local government leaders should focus on first and foremost.

While I’m all about lowering property taxes in the area–because we could certainly use the decrease–the problem is that current tax revenue isn’t being spent wisely.  Not to mention that we’re already giving out large property tax breaks to the corporations who would receive the most benefit from the proposal were it to pass and they were to have their property taxes reduced further.  Inherently, the system is complex and difficult, but the focus should be on infrastructure priorities and essentials.

I want more trails, culture, and focus on the arts in the region.  But I can’t write off a disproportionate tax increase on the low-income and poorest people of the community to make our region better.  I just can’t.

For more information on the proposal, check out the supporters’ website and the opponents’ website.

Continue Reading...
View More...