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Iowa Politics Roundup: Tax Increases Hot Topic in First Gubernatorial Debate PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 17 September 2010 13:09

Governor Chet Culver repeatedly asserted that former Governor Terry Branstad is not telling the truth and is misleading Iowans, while Branstad argued that Culver’s across-the-board state-budget cut led to property-tax increases across the state during the first televised debate between the two in Sioux City.

The spirited, hour-long debate offered the first direct exchange between the current and former governor. Eighteen minutes into the Tuesday-night event, Branstad said Culver has acknowledged publicly that he’s made mistakes and asked him to name the three biggest.

“Well, Terry, like all governors including you when you were in office for 16 years, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes. The difference is that we’ve taken responsibility for those mistakes,” Culver said. “In your case, you’ve had 20 different scandals in 12 separate state agencies. You continue to not be honest with the people of this state. You attack day after day after day and I think tonight, it’s important that you be straight and honest with the people of Iowa. What happened during your administration?”

Branstad noted that Culver had launched an attack on his administration, but he wanted to keep the focus on Culver.

“I think he’s made some huge mistakes,” Branstad said of Culver. “One was in 2009, passing the biggest budget in state’s history when the whole nation is in a recession and then denying what the auditor and the Legislative Services Agency said about the budget problems facing the state ... until October, and then doing a massive across-the-board cut, which led to property-tax increases that we’re now seeing ... and then also pushing through the legislature this massive bonding plan which has put the state in debt.”

Branstad said he believed in doing things on a pay-as-you-go basis. But Culver asserted that Branstad bonded for $4.3 billion while he was governor – four times as much as Culver – just to keep the lights on. Culver also said his I-JOBS bonding-for-infrastructure program is not adding to the state’s debt because it’s being paid for with gambling revenues.

When asked about his position on a potential increase in the alcohol tax, Branstad said: “I don’t think we ought to be raising any taxes.”

He said many fees, taxes, and fines have been increased under Culver, but the worst thing has been a large increase in property taxes that hurts people who are laid-off and on fixed incomes.

“We’ve just had the biggest property tax [increase] in Iowa history, in the last 30 years,” Branstad said. “Why did that happen? Because Governor Culver mismanaged the budget, and then he panicked and instead of bringing the legislature back to make thoughtful reductions in programs, he does this massive across-the-board cut. Schools had already hired their teachers, so what do they have to do? They had to either lay off teachers or raise property taxes. ... We should not be raising taxes on beer or anything else at this time.”

The question allowed Culver to bring up Branstad’s record on taxes. He called it another example of a promise Branstad did not keep.

“In 1982, he promised the people of Iowa, ‘I will not raise your taxes,’” Culver said.“The first bill he signed as governor in 1983 was an increase in the sales tax. Terry Branstad is not telling the truth about his record. He has raised taxes 60 times on hard-working Iowa families. Those are general taxes: gas tax, sales tax, corporate income tax, business tax. ... He’s done it before and he will do it again. I guarantee you that he will continue to resort to the tax increase, something that I have resisted for four years as governor.”

Axelrod, Plouffe Defend Obama’s Economic Policies at Harkin Steak Fry

Democratic strategists David Axelrod and David Plouffe on Sunday defended President Barack Obama’s agenda over the first 20 months of his administration and blasted Republicans on the economy during speeches at the 33rd-annual Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola.

“The president made some very tough decisions about the economy,” said Axelrod, a senior White House adviser who was the chief strategist behind Obama’s 2008 campaign. He said the bailout and stimulus bills prevented another depression: “They weren’t necessarily the popular decisions, but they were the right decisions.”

While last year’s guest, Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), pushed health-care reform in his keynote address, Plouffe and Axelrod spent the majority of their speeches playing defense, with Democrats poised to lose control of the U.S. House and take sharp losses in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races nationwide.

“These were the policies that took the $237-billion surplus that Bill Clinton left and turned it into a $1.3-trillion deficit,” said Axelrod, referring to policies under President George W. Bush. “These were the policies that unleashed Wall Street and special interests to write their own rules at the expense of middle class and our economy. And these were the policies that led to the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. Why in the world would we go back to that?”

The Harkin Steak Fry, attended by about 1,500 people this year, is one of Iowa’s largest Democratic fundraisers. This year, the event came days before a conservative heavy-hitter – former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president – will headline the Republican Party of Iowa’s Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines.

“Next week you have a good opportunity to remind your neighbors and your friends and your family members about who the real Republican Party is, because the very best organizer and fundraiser for the Democratic Party is going to be here in Iowa – Sarah Palin,” said Plouffe, a Delaware native who was campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. “Listen, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are bad enough,” he continued. But “they’re not the real Republican Party. It is Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. That is the power. All of these Republican candidates have to pledge allegiance to them and their intolerance.”

Plouffe also routinely mentioned Sunday that there is a stark difference between the economic policy of Democrats and Republicans, calling policy during the Bush administration “an unprecedented assault on the middle class.” He stressed that recent polls showing Democrats trailing Republicans nationally are nothing to worry about.

“We have the numbers here in Iowa and so many other states,” Plouffe said. “Tens of thousands of people right now in Iowa are no threat to vote for Terry Branstad or Chuck Grassley or any Republican, but they’re not committed to voting. If we get great work done on the ground ... we can win this election. More importantly, I think we should.”