Mayors, governors, senators — oh my!

This is a sort of Friday potpourri post, covering everything from the controversy swirling in Washington to the potential ’12ers who will be in Iowa soon. 

In case you missed it, short-time Governor Chet Culver and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie have issued statements in support of President Obama’s deal with the GOP on taxes.  (Cownie endorsed Obama before the ’08 Caucuses.) The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party took a slightly different slant than her two Democratic counterparts.  And Congressman Bruce Braley is the only one of Iowa’s three Democratic congressmen to issue a written statement on the subject. Braley hints he’s dismayed by the deal, but doesn’t come right out and say it. You can read all of those statements below.

Issued 12.9.10 @ 12:08 p.m.: Braley statement on tax cut negotiations

Washington, DC – Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement on the tax cut negotiations:

“As the tax cut package takes shape, I want to reiterate my support for a tax cut extension for every American family on incomes up to $250,000.  I continue to fight for an extension of unemployment benefits, especially during the holiday season.  I remain extremely concerned that extending Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans will explode the deficit.” 

“I continue to fight to cut taxes for Iowa’s families and I am working to ensure our future generations are not saddled with extreme debt.  I look forward to reading the legislative language produced on the bill before making a final decision on these important issues.”

Issued 12.9.10 @ 3:05 p.m.: Mayor T.M Franklin Cownie’s Statement on President Obama’s Tax Cuts for Amerlca’s Middle Class

Des Moines Mayor Cownie issued the following statement in response to President obarna’s economic incentive package for America’s middle class families.

“I want to commend President Obama for his leadership in securing tax cuts for America’s middle class, extending unemployment benefits forthe nation’s jobless, and providing important tax incentives for small businesses to create jobs. Preventing tax rates for the middle class from rising on January 1 and the payroll tax reduction that will take effect next year will put hard earned dollars back into family budgets in Des Moines and all across thecountrv, While we know that the President did not want to extend these benefits to the nation’s wealth lest and therefore worsen the federal deficit, we also know that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. The nation and its middle class working families need relief now. President Obama has demonstrated his leadership by pulling together an economic package that the country desperately needs.”

Issued 12.9.10 @ 3:53 p.m.: Governor Culver: President Obama is Working to Help Middle Class

Governor also calls for package to include extension of ethanol tax credits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governor Chet Culver today said he supports President Obama’s efforts to extend unemployment insurance, tax cuts for working families and other tax incentives.

Culver, who is in Washington, D.C., as the chair of the National Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, is pushing to get an extension on ethanol tax credits. The Governor said he appreciates President Obama’s work.

“I am proud of the fact that the President is working for Iowa’s working families during these extraordinary times,” he said. “Without the extension, more than 8,000 Iowa families were going to lose their benefits during the holiday season.”

The Governor also is urging Congress to include in the final tax package the ethanol tax credits.

“This is critically important for creating new jobs in Iowa,” Culver said. “The ethanol industry is a growth industry that promises good-paying jobs for Iowans now and into the future.”

Issued 12.10.10 @ 11:30 a.m.: The Middle Class is Not a Bargaining Chip

Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky, Iowa Democratic Party
Over the past weeks the middle class has been held hostage by Chuck Grassley and his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Why? To stand with millionaires and billionaires.
While thousands of Iowans braced for not only an immediate loss of unemployment benefits, but a tax increase in the new year, Republicans used them to get what they wanted. For those Iowans still out of work, unemployment benefits are essential to their well being. Whether it’s putting food on their table, buying boots and mittens for their kids, or putting gas in their tank, they have always had a partner in the government as they look for another job.
Republicans chose to exploit this partnership and turn a struggling middle class into a bargaining chip as they continue to stand up for the richest one percent of Americans, and against hard working families.
If Republicans were allowed to continue their abuse of Senate rules, our economic recovery would have been put at risk as well. Aside from the wide agreement that unemployment benefits are one of the most effective ways to spur economic growth, Republicans were leading the nation into a situation which would cripple our economic recovery by shedding over a million jobs and leaving the unemployed on their own.
Thankfully, Democrats have put a framework for compromise in place and are working to protect the middle class. As it stands, Democrats have secured a $120 billion tax cut for working families and an additional tax credit for 10 million lower income Americans. In addition, the compromise plan includes freezing college tuition for 8 million students through the American Opportunity Tax Credit and extending the Child Tax Credit, saving families up to $1,000 per child.
It’s clear which party is standing up for the middle class.
While the details of the compromise bill are being sculpted and debated over the coming days, we cannot lose this context. We all know compromise is part of governing, but holding a majority of Americans hostage to force a deal that benefits the few is not. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents across Iowa must remember that Republicans, including Senator Grassley, used the middle class to get their way and force a compromise.
Such cravenly political tactics show a disregard for the hard working Iowans whose jobs, livelihoods, and well being were at stake. Voters will not forget that. 

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowan who is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, issued a statement in reaction to the final bipartisan agreement on tax extensions.

“Raising taxes would be the worst thing we could do in this economy. Continued tax relief gives people the ability to keep more of their money to use as they see fit, whether it’s buying groceries or investing in their small business. Sending more money to Washington would just result in more government spending, which is the last thing the country needs.”

That Senate bill/deal then prompted Culver to issue another release:

Governor Culver Applauds Renewable Energy Focus of U.S Senate Tax Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governor Chet Culver today applauded the Bipartisan Tax Compromise bill that was introduced last night in the U.S. Senate. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 includes extensions to the ethanol and biodiesel tax credits. The compromise bill also includes a yearlong extension of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section 1603 program, a renewable energy grant in lieu of tax credit which is important to the wind energy industry.

Culver is the chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition as well as the chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. He has been in Washington, D.C. this week working to ensure that the ethanol and biodiesel tax credits were extended as a part of this package.
                                                                                                                                      “I am proud of the fact that Senator Reid, Senator Harkin, and others are putting renewable and alternative energies into this important legislation,” Culver said. “This bill will also extend unemployment benefits to thousands of Iowans during these unprecedented times. Because we are the leader in both ethanol and biodiesel production, and we are second in the nation in wind energy production, these tax credits and grants will have a huge impact on maintaining and creating jobs in Iowa. We’ve shown what’s possible in Iowa. This is how to ensure our economy will continue on the path to a full recovery.”

Grassley issued another statement at 3:37 p.m. today, specifically about biofuels.

            Common sense prevailed in the agreement reached last night on a tax proposal, including the fact that ethanol and biodiesel offer the most effective alternative to foreign oil and support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States.
The federal legislation contains an extension of the ethanol and biodiesel tax credits and an extension of the ethanol tariff at current rates.  The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill on Monday afternoon.  The ethanol provision in this tax bill is an extension of current  law.  To leave it out of the tax bill would be a tax increase, which I don’t support.

Americans spend $730 million a day on imported petroleum, and ethanol is the only renewable fuel substantially working to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.  Domestic ethanol displaces oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria.  It now accounts for almost 10 percent of the U.S. fuel supply. 
The billions of dollars we spend on imported petroleum prop up unfriendly governments and dictators.  An average of $84 billion is spent each year by the U.S. military to protect oil transit routes.  Until there’s another alternative fuel doing as much to reduce oil dependence, it would be foolish to undermine the only green, domestic alternative to imported oil.

I fought tooth and nail to secure the inclusion of both the ethanol and biodiesel provisions in the new legislative proposal.  There were efforts by some congressional majority Democrats and the White House to weaken the tax policy for these alternative fuels.  In fact, the current congressional majority allowed the blenders’ tax credit for biodiesel to expire at the end of 2009.  Since then, 23,000 jobs in biodiesel have been lost nationwide.  The new tax agreement would extend the biodiesel credit retroactively to cover all of 2010 and through the end of 2011. 

We can’t risk a repeat performance with ethanol, where 112,000 jobs are at stake.  Getting both of these tax provisions extended through the end of next year will boost jobs and investment in the alternative energy sector, exactly when the economy needs a real shot in the arm.

US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, called into the Radio Iowa newsroom this morning to tout the deal.

…“I think it’s important for members of congress and for all of America to understand what’s at stake here,” Vilsack said during an interview with Raido Iowa. “We have an economy that’s in the process of recovering and in order to accelerate that recovery and continue momentum for that recovery it’s important for taxes not to be raised. In fact, it would be beneficial for taxes to be reduced in some areas.”

 Now, shifting to 2012 presidential politics. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum will come back to Iowa next week for his eighth visit to the state.  Soon-to-be former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will be in Iowa at the end of January for his book-signging tour.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee talked with Politico about 2012.  Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, often included on lists of  presidential prospects for 2012, is depicted as calling a sort of cease with social conservatives

Mike Gravel may run against President Obama in the Democratic caucuses and primaries.  Former State Representative Ed Fallon — a 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate — is quoted in this Politico story by Jonathan Martin & Ben Smith about the prospects of a serious primary challenger for Obama.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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