Iowa Taxpayer’s Day: Pawlenty & 5 candidates for governor

Iowans for Tax Relief is hosting an event in Des Moines this afternoon and at 2:41 p.m. I am inside, with a green wristband, sitting at a table covered by a green table cloth.  I see several Republican legislators and statehouse lobbyists in the crowd.  They’ll hear from Minnesota Governor/prospective 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty first, followed by five candidates for governor — the three Republican candidates, plus independent candidate Jonathan Narcisse and Libertarian candidate Eric Co0per.

A woman and a man in the front row are wearing matcing t-shirts which have artwork on the back depicting street signs.  One street is named “Bite Me Boulevard” and the other is “No Frickin’ Way.” I’m curious as to what the front of this t-shirt has to offer,  At 2:47 p.m. former Governor Terry Bransad enters the room, spots a person he knows sitting right behind the woman with the t-shirt and Branstad urges this person to get a relative who is going to be gone June 8th to cast an absentee ballot in the primary.

At 2:50 p.m. former Governor Robert Ray entered the room, with David Oman, a 1998 candidate for governor who served as Ray’s chief of staff. 

Shortly after three o’clock Iowans for Tax Relief founder welcomed the crowd, with a Tax Day joke. “If you’re still hurting from Thursday, perhaps you can take comfort in the advice of an IRS agent:  ‘You’ll feel better if you can learn to stop thinking of it as your money,” Stanley said.

Stanley described himself as a “retired…recovering legislator” who is “doing penance for (his) sins” by leading ITR for the past three decades. 

“This nation is sliding into bankruptcy,” Stanley said, urging people in the room to turn out to vote in November 2,2010 to defeat those in Washington who he says wants to remake the U.S. into a socialist society.

“We’re not trying to shut down government…Stop giving our politicians a blank check and put them on an allowance,” Stanley said.

Ed Failor, Junior — Iowans for Tax Relief president — takes the stage at 3:13 p.m.  “Nothing major happened that was bad,” Failor said of the 2010 legislative session in terms of policy.  He offered a critique of the budgets passed by the General Assembly over the past two years.  “As David (Stanley) said, that’s institutionalized child abuse,” Failor said.

Failor said most great movements like Christianity, civil rights and women’s suffrage were started because of the word, “Enough.”  He urged the crowd never to think they had done enough or they may regret the outcome of the November election.

Failor started his introduction of the Minnesota governor with a joke — one of those Iowa/Minnesota jokes that gets told by Hawkeye and Golden Gopher fans.  The joke was this:  what’s the difference between a Minnesota cheerleader and a bag of trash?  The bag of trash gets taken out once a week.  When Failor said he’d tell a second joke, someone yelled ‘Enough.”

“Under his leadership Minnesota has flourished..and they have an economy that’s doing significantly better” than the rest of the states, according to Failor.   “…He’s a model of what a leader should be in his counry.”

At 3:24 p.m. Pawlenty is on stage.   The crowd stands to applaud.   Pawlenty began with a reference to April 15, Tax Day, “or as the Democrats like to call it Christmas.”

Pawlenty said he’s reminded of the MasterCard commercial as he thinks about the overspending in D.C.   Here’s his commercial:

The Wall Street Bailout: $800 billion ‘

The Stimulus Package: $700 billion

The health care bill: $2.6 trillion.

Republicans getting elected in 2010:  Priceless.

Pawlenty dissected the word progressive.  “It makes it sound like they want to have progress and they are for the future, but you and I know better,” Pawlenty said, suggesting Democrats were seeking “solutions from eastern Europe from a century ago and they didn’t work then.”

“…The call is coming for each of us to rise up,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty a few moments later asked the crowd: “Have you had enough?” 

He said it’s time to “move beyond the teleprompter talk of hope and change.”

Pawlenty decried a bailout mentality.

“It’s not just about changing parties; it’s about changing principles,” Pawlenty said.  “…This is a matter of restoring American common sense.”

(The “they” in the following sentence is the federal government and Democrats who control the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.) “If they were a bank and applied the same rules to themselves as they do to a bank….they would have to shut themselves down,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty next proposed an “economic bill of rights” for the country which included these proposals:  a balanced federal budget; a line item veto for the president; a super majority vote in congress to raise taxes or raise the debt ceiling.

Next topic:  health care.  “What we should be doing in health care is putting individuals in charge of their own health care,” Pawlenty said, talking about the health care reforms for Minnesota state workers.

Next topic:  national security.  “Whether it’s on the playground…at work…in international affairs, bullies respect strength not weakness,” Pawlenty said.  “…The United States in order to be safe needs to be strong.”

Next topic:  taxes.  According to Pawlenty, Reagan Democrats have turned into Sam’s Club Republicans.  Pawlenty said Republicans need to “connect on a gut and heart level” with voters.

“We shouuld be lowering taxes in Iowa.  We should be lowering taxes in Minnesota…I did,” Pawlenty said.  “…We’ve got a lot of work to do all across this country.”

Pawlenty told a story about hsi wife encouraging him to run for governor, concluding with a joke about him being Rocky and she being Adrian.

“The sun is rising again on the conservative movement.  It won’t be easy but it never is,” Pawlenty said.  “…We need each and every one of you….Let’s go out and change Iowa and Minnesota.”

The crowd stood to applaud. Pawlenty is giving ITR founder David Stanley a Vikings shirt because Stanley has been a long-time fan of the team.

Next up, five men who are running for governor of Iowa.  Bob Vander Plaats is first.  “Wow, what a crowd,” BVP says to the room of about 560.  “…You want to hear specifics, who is a true fiscal conservative and who will truly lead.”

He supports the constitutional amendment to limit state spending, as well as the other ITR priorities.

“Make no mistake about it, I am the true fiscal conservative in this race,” BVP says. 

BVP would eliminate the corporate income tax.  “I will get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers,” BVP says. 

He says property tax reform would be accomplished in a BVP administration by having the state pay for mental health services for the needy.  “I will also cut our cap gains tax rate by more than half,” BVP said. 

He promises to eliminate the state income tax on active duty miliary soldiers.  He also says he’d revisiting the $290 million in spending reductions Republican legislators proposed this past year.

BVP promises 3, 5, 10 and 20 year budget targets, along with new cash reserve requirements.

He calls for expanding the state Revenue Estimating Conference from three to five, with the other two people being the state auditor and state treasurer.

BVP talks about making Iowa the “start-up capitol” of the world. 

“I am the fiscal conservative in this race,” BVP says to conclude.  BVP concluded with five seconds on the clock.

Terry E. Branstad is next, TEB for short in this blog.  “It’s great to see such a tremendous roomful of people,” TEB said to start, adding a thanks to Stanley for his ITR work.  “I’m really proud that my oldest son, Eric, works for Iowans for Tax Relief.”

“I want to lead an economic comeback all across this state,” Branstad said, his voice rising. 

He begins with openness and transparency.  TEB promises to establish a website where Iowans can track the state budget.  “I will be releasing my 2009 tax returns on Monday and I will release my tax return every year that I’m governor of Iowa,” he said.

TEB told the crowd he supports the constitutional amendment which limits state spending to 99 percent of tax revenue.   He’s talking about the 1992 legislative session.

“We cut the income taxes across the board by 10 percent.  I wanted 15 percent,” Branstad said, adding the inheritance tax for lineal descendents was eliminated, too, during his tenure as governor. 

“I left office with a $900 million surplus in January of 1999.”  Branstad said.

TEB said he would veto budgets until there’s a vote scheduled on a constitutional amendment to limit spending.

Regarding commecial property taxes:  he would set property taxes for new comemrcial property at 60-65 percent of market value.  Existing property to 60-65.  “It can be done.  It should be done and we need to do it to make Iowa competitive,” Branstad said.

“When I was governor, we cut the income tax…

As for federal deductiability, TEB promises to resist efforts to get rid of the deduction which allows Iowans to deduct their federal tax bill on their state taxes: “We cannot have that in this state,” Branstad said of efforts to get rid of federal deductibility.  He pounded the lectern to emphasize his point.

“…I sincerely ask for your support.  Thank you very much,” TEB said to conclude.

Jonathan Narcisse (JN), an Independent candidate for governor, is next.  He gets his first round of applause from the crowd for announcing his weight loss over the past year.

JN says his goal is a “low tax, free market Iowa.”

In direct response to Branstad, JN says: “You cannot double taxes and double spending and say that you cut anything.”

“We have a spending and a leadership crisis,” JN said of the state. 

JN offers a series of specific tax proposals:  phase out corporate income tax; terminate all business and corporate tax credits in Iowa; base property taxes on the purchase price; rollback sales tax 3 percent; get rid of most sales tax exemptions except for food, medicine;  allow up to a 15 percent rebate on individual income taxes which could be invested in small businesses.

“My fellow Iowans, you would not be here if you did not care,” JN says.  “…Answer our call. Join our fight…Together we will restore an Iowa worth fighting for.” 

Libertarian candidate Eric Cooper of Ames is next.  He’s lost 144 pounds since July 1 according to event mistress of ceremonies Kathie Obradovich.

“On my website, if you go there, it tells you how I lost all the weight,” Cooper said to start, mentioning at the onset that he is “proud” to be a member of Iowans for Tax Relief.

“I think that anybody that honestly looks at our current system….if we’re ever going to dig ourselves out of the current situation, our government has to get very much smaller, very quickly,” Cooper said. 

Cooper advocates a return to “Jeffersonian” ideals.  “Having the government perform other than the very limited set of responsibilities that require force is foolish,” he says.

Cooper only favors a small sales tax or a flat income tax.  “That’s all we need,” he said. 

“…Look, I am not going to be elected governor of Iowa,” Cooper said.  “…I want to start a real dialogue with my fellow Iowans about the notion of smaller government, a dialogue I think the two major parties have been reluctant to have.”

He got the crowd to recite the state motto.  “Citizens of Iowa, do you know those words?” he asked, before joining the crowd to recite it.  “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”

Final candidate of the day:  Rod Roberts (RR).

He began by thanking ITR for its work and joking he might just try to cross the eight minute limit set by the hosts, just to see what happens when the microphone is shut off.

RR quoted the Bible.  “The first shall be last and the last shall be first, because what will really matter is June 8 and that’s what I am hoping for.”

In regards to property taxes, RR says it’s time to “redesign local government” because local government budgets are made up of property taxes.  “As governor, I will make that a priority,” RR says.

RR promises to do what he can as governor to get a constitutional amendment limiting state spending to 99 percent of state tax revenue.

RR mentions incident in 2009 when many ITR members were tossed out of the House during a public hearing.  He called that the “low point in my 10 years” as a member of the House.

RR says it’s time to “dramatically change the landscape here in Iowa.” He promises to “move away from using targeted tax credits” and instead reduce the corporate income tax rate to zero.

RR promised to be as careful a steward of the taxpayers’ money as he is with his own money, mentioning his wife was in the crowd and she could attest to how careful he is. 

Failor concluded by saying there was one candidate who was not present, Chet Culver, the Democrat who is currently governor and is seeking reelection in November.  “He doesn’t respect you,” Failor said, adding Culver doesn’t respect the power of the people.

“Take away his (power),” Failor urged the crowd, which applauded.

Event over.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


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