Iowa Politics Roundup: Obama Urges Patience on Economy, Defends Plan on Bush Tax Cuts Print
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 01 October 2010 19:00

President Barack Obama used a backyard discussion in Des Moines this week to urge patience on the economy and defend a plan to end the Bush tax cuts for Americans making more than $250,000, saying the nation can’t afford the $700-billion price tag and must make tough choices.

“What we’ve proposed is to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income up to $250,000,” Obama said. “The reason I think it’s important for us to do this is not because I’m not sympathetic to small businesses. It has to do with the fact that 98 percent of small businesses actually have profit of less than $250,000.”

Obama said most individuals don’t make $250,000, but most small businesses don’t make that much, either. “But it costs $700 billion,” he said. “Finding $700 billion is not easy, and when we borrow $700 billion, we’re adding to our deficit; then we’ve got to pay interest to China. ... So these are the choices.”

David Greenspon, president of Competitive Edge in Urbandale, which employs about 130 people and manufactures promotional products, was one of six who asked Obama a question during Wednesday’s 75-minute discussion in northwest Des Moines. He used his time to grill Obama about the business climate.

“As the government gets more and more involved in business and gets more involved in taxes to pay for an awful lot of programs, what you’re finding is you’re strangling those job-creation vehicles that are available,” Greenspon said. “You’re sort of strangling the engine that does create the jobs.”

Greenspon, a Republican who rents a portion of his building to Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad to use as his campaign headquarters, said talk about repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans concerns him. “I don’t care if it’s 5 percent,” he said. “That’s 5 percent that would create a job.”

But Obama said he has signed eight small-business tax cuts since taking office, in addition to a package he signed into law this week that he said cut taxes in eight more ways.

“So your taxes haven’t gone up in this administration. Your taxes have gone down in this administration,” Obama told Greenspon. “The notion that, ‘Well, he’s a Democrat so your taxes must have gone up.’ That’s just not true. Taxes have gone down for you, the small business person, and by the way for 95 percent of families.”

Jobs, unemployment, and the economy were key topics during the invitation-only event.

Steele Confident in GOP but Warns of Complacency

Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele expressed confidence about Republican victories in Iowa and the country but warned GOP supporters about complacency on the eve of Obama’s arrival to Iowa’s capital city.

“I feel good about where we are right now,” Steele said at a rally of about 100 volunteers and supporters late Tuesday afternoon in Urbandale. “I’m excited. But I’m not going to get into the prediction business. Strange things can happen on Election Day.”

Steele has been traveling the country on what he calls the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour. He will visit 48 states before the end of the tour. Iowa’s rally was held at Branstad’s campaign headquarters in Urbandale.

Branstad, Iowa’s governor from 1983 to 1999, said Steele’s visit re-energized Iowa’s Republican base. “Republicans in this state are fired up,” Branstad said. “This the strongest statewide ticket we have had in a long time. I think, for voters, the choice is clear. People don’t like the direction the country is headed in and they want to change it.”

Steele encouraged supporters to take a piece of paper and write down what headline they want to read November 3, then ask themselves over the next month: “What have I done today to make sure this headline comes true?”

Former Lieutenant Governors Join in Defense of Judges

Former Lieutenant Governors Sally Pederson and Joy Corning criticized the American Family Association’s financing of the effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices as the two launched the “Justice, Not Politics” coalition aimed at retaining Iowa’s merit system for selecting judges.

“There is no place for money and politics in our courts,” said Pederson, a Democrat who served under former Governor Tom Vilsack.

Pederson called the AFA an “outrageous right-wing group” out of Mississippi that is completely funding the Iowa for Freedom organization, which she said has no Iowa contributors and could change the nature of Iowa’s judicial system. “This demonstrates to us how a special-interest group that has a defined political agenda can undermine the integrity and impartiality of our courts,” she said. “They don’t have the interests of Iowans at heart.”

Corning, a Republican who served under Branstad, said the retention of judges should not be based on a single decision. “There is much work to be done to fight extremists who want to insert their narrow interpretation into the one branch of government that should be free from politics,” she said.

The new coalition is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that is not expected to be well-financed; it will instead reach out through its membership to “speak Iowan to Iowan” and educate through press conferences and op-ed pieces. Its efforts will run parallel with those of Iowans for Fair & Impartial Courts, but “we feel like we’re a much more broad-based coalition throughout the state,” Pederson said.

Meanwhile, Iowa for Freedom Chair Bob Vander Plaats accused politicians of continuing to use scare tactics in an effort “to strong-arm voters and misinform them” about Iowa for Freedom’s effort to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices in November. He said voters “are listening and paying close attention when opponents say not to interject politics into the judicial system; yet another opposition group is being chaired by two former lieutenant governors.

Culver Touts Budget Surplus as GOP Focuses on Property-Tax Hikes

The state has a $754-million budget surplus going into Fiscal Year 2011, Governor Chet Culver announced after the state ended Fiscal Year 2010 with a balance of $335.6 million.

The Fiscal Year 2010 ending balance was originally estimated to come in at $100.7 million, but revenues came in $234.9 million higher and made for the second-highest general-fund ending balance in the past decade. The $754-million surplus includes the state’s $419-million rainy-day fund.

But Branstad’s campaign claimed that while Culver is touting a balanced budget, property taxes have increased more than $500 million under the Culver administration.

“Governor Culver will say at today’s news conference that the budget is balanced, which could not be further from the truth,” Branstad campaign manager Jeff Boeyink said. “His budget shifted $735 million of general-fund spending to other sources to deceive Iowans about his true level of spending.”

Boeyink said Culver claimed his budget was balanced in the summer of 2009, then ordered a 10-percent across-the-board budget cut that led to teacher layoffs. “Tell Iowa property-owners that the budget is balanced, when today they are on the hook for the largest increase in school property taxes in 30 years,” Boeyink said.

Culver in return accused Branstad of failing to balance 12 budgets in a row, producing “massive deficits” and forcing the state to borrow $3 billion for short-term bonds at high interest rates to keep the lights on and to keep checks from bouncing. He said Branstad signed 15 pieces of legislation to allow local governments to raise property taxes on residents. Culver went on to say that Branstad has now proposed $3.5 billion in new spending or cuts, including a 15-percent cut of state government that he hasn’t explained to anyone.

Culver Gets NRA Endorsement

Culver and Branstad on Monday received dueling endorsements from gun-rights groups.

The National Rifle Association endorsed Culver for re-election. Culver announced the endorsement during a press conference at the Izaak Walton League in Des Moines, where the “Sportsmen for Culver” group also debuted.

In its endorsement letter, the NRA said Culver has “demonstrated a strong commitment to our Second Amendment rights by signing landmark right-to-carry legislation and making Iowa the 37th ‘shall-issue’ state.” This law standardizes the process of issuing gun permits in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

The NRA also praised Culver for opposing proposed increases in hunting-license fees, and for signing legislation that improved the ability of deployed service members to maintain their permit to carry firearms while serving their country.

Later in the day, Branstad announced an endorsement from Iowa Gun Owners, a group formed in 2009 that seeks to strengthen Second Amendment rights in the state.

“We are pleased to report that Terry Branstad has completed the Iowa Gun Owners Candidate Survey 100 percent in support of gun rights, and we proudly endorse him for governor,” said Aaron Dorr, chair of the Iowa Gun Owners PAC.

Branstad also said that he is a longtime NRA member and gun owner, and he expects he will get the support of the vast majority of sportsmen and gun owners in the state.

This weekly summary comes from IowaPolitics.com, an online government and politics news service. Reporter Andrew Duffelmeyer and other correspondents contributed to this report.