Iowans for Tax Relief has a new president

After a staff exodus earlier this spring, the powerful anti-tax lobbying organization known as Iowans for Tax Relief has a new president.  Read the ITR announcement below.

Rob Solt is New President of Iowans for Tax Relief

Muscatine, IA. — David M. Stanley, Chairman and CEO of Iowans for Tax Relief, announced that Robert H. (Rob) Solt is ITR’s new President and Chief Operating Officer, elected today by the Board of Directors.

Solt has served for 20 years in ITR staff and volunteer roles, including Lobbyist, Treasurer, Vice President, and as Vice Chairman until today. He continues as a member of the Board of Directors. He has served for five years as CEO of Pearl Mutual Funds.

Stanley said, “Rob Solt has the experience, leadership, and vision to help Iowans for Tax Relief win our goals of limited government, lower taxes, and reducing government debt and spending. I have worked closely with Rob since he came to Iowans for Tax Relief in 1991 and he has my total trust and confidence.”

Stanley, ITR’s founder, added, “Iowans for Tax Relief began in 1978 with 12 members and has grown to 54,900 members, making ITR the largest pro-taxpayer state organization, per capita, in the country. Rob has had a key role in the growing effectiveness of ITR and knows how to win even more victories for Iowa taxpayers in future years.”

The ITR Board of Directors also elected Dr. Donald P. Racheter, a 30-year Board member, as the new Vice Chairman. Daniel G. Steele, Vice President, was elected to the Board of Directors.

The Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Directors are unpaid volunteers.

Iowans for Tax Relief issues statement

After a week of speculation, Iowans for Tax Relief founder David Stanley has issued a written statement about the departure of most of the ITR staff (president, vice president, statehouse lobbyist, development director).  Read Stanley’s written statement — in the form of the group’s weekly newsletter — below:

Big Opportunities for Taxpayers

By Dave Stanley
Chairman, Iowans for Tax Relief

What Next?
Iowans for Tax Relief is working hard to win more victories for all Iowa taxpayers in the closing weeks of this 2011 Legislative Session. We are going full speed ahead, not distracted by recent resignations of some employees or by fantastic speculations of our opponents and news media.
Staying on Course. For 32 years ITR has stayed on course, through staff changes and many ups and downs. ITR is respected and effective because we persevere, tell the truth, keep our word, and are consistent and dependable. Our principles and goals remain the same: limited government; lower taxes, spending, and debt; economic growth with more good jobs; and opportunity for all people. All this will not change.
Our strong volunteer leadership team and our outstanding 10 staff members are stepping up. We will gradually increase our staff as we find the right person for the right job.

Our Lobbying Team. Dr. Don Racheter, 30-year ITR Board leader and expert on Iowa government and politics, will lobby for ITR in Des Moines during the rest of this Legislative Session. Don is taking a short-term leave of absence from his position as President of Public Interest Institute. ITR’s two part-time contract lobbyists continue their helpful assistance.
And our members are still our best lobbyists! Lawmakers listen to ITR — and the high taxers and big spenders fear ITR — because our members speak up strongly for our principles.
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More background on Failor, Iowans for Tax Relief

As The Iowa Republican reported Monday, Ed Failor, Junior, has resigned his post as president of Iowans for Tax Relief.  Here’s The Des Moines Register story from Jennifer Jacobs; one written by Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter James Q. Lynch includes quotes from a Failor interview.

Failor sent these comments in an email yesterday:

…You may be asking “why?”.

Well, after 16 great years, I resigned as President of ITR on Friday.

ITR has great leadership, staff, and history. They are in very capable hands and will continue to be a powerhouse in Iowa policy and politics.

I am moving on to pursue exciting opportunities. I will let you all know specifically what’s next at an appropriate time.

The Muscatine-based group has been influential in Iowa politics for decades.  It was founded in 1978 by David Stanley of Muscatine, a state representative in the 1960s and ’70s who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate twice.  His grandfather had been a state senator, too. 

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Branstad item vetoes tax proposals

Governor Terry Branstad used his item veto authority today to nix two tax proposals — one aimed at businesses, the other designed to give Iowa’s working poor a tax break.  Read the Radio Iowa story.  Here’s the press release from Branstad’s office.

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today signed Senate File 209, which provides supplemental funding for indigent defense, Department of Human Services, Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections, Department of Public Health and community colleges.

The governor also used his item veto authority to insist on broad tax relief, vowing to work with both parties in both chambers to build a tax relief package that promotes economic growth in Iowa.

“I am pleased to sign Senate File 209 to provide indigent defense funding, funding for the Department of Public Safety, Department of Human Services and Department of Corrections,” said Branstad. “I commend the House and Senate for making these supplemental appropriations in areas where the cuts would have adversely affected the health and safety of Iowans.”

In a letter to Senate President Jack Kibbie, attached to this email, Branstad stated:

“I am unable to approve the item designated as Division I. […]Any temporary economic stimulus effect of bonus depreciation is primarily accomplished through the federal tax code.  Iowa should instead focus its energies on improving our state’s long term competitive tax position for new job creation.  With our limited budget, that is best accomplished by reducing our commercial property taxes which are second highest in the country and our marginal corporate tax rate which is the highest in the nation.

“I am unable to approve the item designated as Division II.

“As earlier indicated, it is my desire to approach tax policy in a comprehensive and holistic manner.  As such, I urge members of the House and Senate to continue to work with my office on an overall tax reduction package that both fits within our sound budgeting principles while reducing those taxes that are impeding our state’s ability to compete for new business and jobs.”

Branstad also said, “I am pleased we could reach this agreement to fund our shared priorities in public safety, public health and indigent defense. I look forward to continuing our discussions on job creation and tax changes as we move forward toward adjournment.”

Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds continue to work with leaders in both the House and the Senate to develop a plan that fits Iowa’s long-term needs, while maximizing effectiveness by creating jobs, growing the state’s economy and putting Iowa on a path to fiscal prosperity.

Gov. Branstad used his item veto authority in accordance with Amendment IV of the Amendments of 1968 to the constitution of the State of Iowa to item veto Divisions I and II of Senate File 209.

Iowans for Tax Relief issued a statement. 

Significant Tax Relief Options Item-Vetoed by Governor Branstad
Weeks of work by the Legislature on Senate File 209 is removed in one day

MUSCATINE, IA—Today Governor Branstad item-vetoed two significant tax relief portions of Senate File 209, the tax and spending compromise bill.
Iowans for Tax Relief President Ed Failor, Jr. issued the following statement:

“It is discouraging to see Governor Branstad’s item- vetoes which remove significant tax relief options in place to help Iowa job creators and Iowa families. A bi-partisan group of Legislators have worked for over six weeks on the compromise bill, and it is built with the best intentions for the taxpayers of Iowa.”

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Groups “speak out” on proposed tax cut

Several groups have weighed in via email over the past 24 hours, expressing support and opposition to the tax bill which is scheduled for public debate in the Iowa House this afternoon (whenever the Democrats quit meeting in private to talk about it).  Words used in these missives range from “bold” and “excellent” to “misdirected” and “sucker.”  If you make it all the way through all the statements, you will find the word “quintile” which according to the dictionary means “the portion of a frequency distribution containing one fifth of the total sample.”

I share these email messages with you in this post, in the order they were received.

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The 2012 ticker

Here are a few 2012-related developments:

FOX News & Iowa GOP team up to co-host another candidate debate.  This one is to be held in Sioux City — and will be “just days” before the Iowa Caucuses.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul will make the three-stops on The Family Leader’s lecture tour on Monday, March 7.  The last stop is in Iowa City, a lecture scheduled to last from 4 – 4:45 p.m.   That would give Paul enough time to make it back to Des Moines to be the last speaker at the Iowa Faith and Family Coalition’s Spring Event, which starts at 5:30 p.m.  Paul, however, is not among the confirmed speakers at that event.  Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Buddy Roemer and Rick Santorum have said they’ll be there.

The Iowa Faith & Family Coalition’s 2010 Spring Event featured Santorum as keynote speaker.  (The group last year was known as the Iowa Christian Alliance.  It has changed its name to the Iowa Faith & Family Coalition.) In the last cycle, the Iowa Christian Alliance co-hosted a five-candidate event with Iowans for Tax Relief in late June of 2007

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has signed on to be the keynote speaker at big event in the Quad Cities on March 15.  Read the GOP news release below:

Des Moines – In a bid to continue building on the recent successes of Iowa Republicans, Chairman Matt Strawn today announced that the Iowa GOP will be holding a year-long series of events across Iowa designed to support and prepare county organizations for the 2012 presidential cycle.
A key feature of the statewide fundraising campaign will be highlighting a national political leader at each event. The kick-off event will be a Chairman’s Dinner the evening of Tuesday, March 15 in the Quad Cities featuring Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

“The Iowa GOP is only as strong as our grassroots members and county party organizations,” said Strawn. “Building a statewide organization to compete with an Obama re-election machine will require unprecedented coordination and hard work by Iowa Republicans. By taking the state GOP out of Des Moines and to every corner of Iowa, we will be prepared for that fight.”

The statewide series of events will feature national political leaders headlining breakfasts, lunches, dinners or coffees all around Iowa. At every stop, those national leaders will be joined by Iowa GOP officials, local county leaders and elected officials.

In explaining the decision to kick-off the year-long series of events in Scott County, Strawn said Iowa’s third-largest county is the epitome of a rejuvenated and rebuilt Iowa GOP. “Not only did Scott County Republicans deliver for Terry Branstad in November, they won a Dem-held State House seat and swept all three county supervisor seats to hold a 4-1 GOP margin on the Board,” said Strawn, noting that only two years earlier President Obama carried Scott County with nearly 57 percent.

According to Iowa GOP officials, the final details of the March 15 Chairman’s Dinner with Governor Barbour will be released later this week. Iowa GOP officials also indicated the state party has been in contact with numerous national Republican leaders and will have additional event announcements in the coming weeks.

The Wall Street Journal profiled “rangy 47-year-old” Bob Vander Plaats.

And finally, Ron Paul was the winner of last weekend’s poll at CPAC.  Paul and Romney were the only candidates to get double-digit support.

Committee debate on competing income tax cuts

Shortly before six o’clock, the Iowa House Ways & Means Committee convened to consider HF 4, a bill that would reduce Iowans personal income taxes by 20 percent across-the-board. 

“(The bill is) relatively simple…but the economic ramifications are beneficial and dramatic and, at the end of the day, it will spur, I’m sure,  a vigorous philosophical discussion,” Rep. Erik Helland (R-Johnson) said to open the discussion.  “…It provides tax relief to over 1.2 million (Iowans) and over 100,000 businesses.  I think at the end of the day all of us agree we’d like Iowans to keep more of their hard-earned dollars and this is a step in that direction and a step towards putting Iowans back to work.”

Representative Dave Jacoby, a Democrat from Coralville, proposed a different tactic. “I’m excited about the idea (of this bill)…I think it would provide some tax relief to those most in need and those across-the-board,” Jacoby said.  “When we start having discussions later about bills and taxes that will affect pockets of people, this bill will affect everyone.”

Jacoby proposed an alternative that would cut taxes for those who earn $250,000 or more annually by five percent.  Those who earn between $250,000 and $20,000 a year would see their taxes cut by 40 percent.  Those who earn less than $20,000 would get a five percent cut under his plan (many income-earners in this category do not wind up owing state income taxes because of the earned income credit).

At this point Republicans and Democrats decided to meet privately to discuss the proposals, so Demorats went to a room across the hall and Republicans stayed in the committee room.  Reporters like yours truly and other observers (lobbyists) stood in the demilitarized zone, er, hallway while the private meetings/caucuses were held.

At about 10 after six the committee returned to open session to consider the Jacoby proposal. 

Helland spoke against Jacoby’s proposal.  He criticized the move to limit tax relief to five percent for those above $250,000 and target the cut to middle income Iowans, saying it would “peel tax relief away from small businesses…This proposal ends up hurting Iowans who need our help right now,” Helland said.

Jacoby countered that his proposal “targets truly small businesspeople” who are “just getting their feet wet” by starting a business in their garage or basement.  “It helps push people toward their dream of owning their own business or starting their own business,” he said.

Jacoby’s proposal failed on a party-line vote, 10-14. 

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Branstad budget & $200 M casino tax hike

Governor Terry Branstad is to deliver his budget address to Iowa legislators in a few moments.  His budget director briefed reporters this morning, revealing Branstad is seeking a double-digit tax increase on the state-licensed casinos.  Prairie Meadows in Altoona and the Horseshow in Council Bluffs now pay a rate of 24 percent; the rest pay 22 percent.  Branstad proposes taxing all state-licensed casino at a 36 percent rate, which he describes as “the level at which it was agreed to years ago.”

While the focus of today is on the next two years, the current year’s budget is also getting attention as Branstad is asking legislators to approve $40 million more for the current year.  That’s about half of what Governor Culver Culver ordered in budget cuts on his way out earlier this month.  Branstad recommends:

$3 million more for MHIs

$1 million more for health care costs

$14 million more for prisons

$3 million more for public safety

$19 million more for indigent defense

Branstad began his speech by telling the crowd Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has a new grandchild, Wyatt, born yesterday afternoon.

Branstad soon sounded a bit like President Obama did at the beginning of the State of the Union speech. Obama said: 

New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all — for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Today Branstad said:

In this storied chamber, I cut my political teeth as a young state representative – learning both to advocate my position and respect my adversary.

–To disagree without being disagreeable. 
–To listen, because that is the only way to learn. 

Because, at the end of the day, we are all Iowans working hard to make our special state an even better place.  Let us never forget why we are here:  to do the people’s business as their servants with respect and dignity and good will.

In the next breath, Branstad launched into what he called “a stern talking to” about past state spending practices he has criticized. “It will come to an end,” Brantad said, adding loudly, “now!”  That got Republicans to stand and applaud.  Democrats sat silently.  

Branstad told lawmakers his budget plan “cleans out the cobwebs of state government” because “the status quo is not longer a viable option.”

Branstad also vowed to call a special session of the legislature this fall to enact education reforms he believes will be drafted by those who participate in a “summit” he plans to host this summer.

Brantad set aside $43 million to provide state subsidies to parents who cannot afford the send their kids to preschool, although his aides say the details on who will be eligible (in other words, at what income level are parents deemed able to afford preschool) is not yet ready.

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Bachmann: GOP nominee will “bubble up” (AUDIO)

Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann spurred speculation that she may run for president in 2012 with a day-long series of private and public events in Iowa. She answered questions from reporters for about five minutes tonight after making a 43-minute-long speech in Des Moines for an Iowans for Tax Relief fundraiser.  Bachmann told reporters she wanted to be “part of the conversation’ — and said she feels no pressure to make a decision “anytime soon” about running for president.

“I think our nominee will bubble up to the surface about a year from now,” Bachmann added.


1.21.11: Bachmann at ITR event (AUDIO)

Fifty-three-year-old Jon Wood of Adel, Iowa, has come here tonight to see an old high school classmate.  Wood is a graduate of Anoka, Minnesota High School. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was in his class.

“I just remember her from high school being a very decent person, not part of that clique that’s kind of stand-offish, kind of snobby — just an average person,” Wood said during an interview about half an hour before the event was to start.

Wood supported Texas Congressman Ron Paul in the 2008 campaign and describes himself as a “Ron Paul/Tea Party person.”  Wood plans to evaluate Bachmann as a potential presidential candidate tonight. “She talks about fiscal responsibility and that’s really the main thing,” Wood said.  “The core principle is the debt and then let’s bring the troops back.  I support that (bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and other military installations around the world) because that’s what I think is required to get the fiscal house in order.”

Bachmann is tonight’s speaker/main draw at a fundraiser for the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC.  Listen to her 43-minute speech:   Bachmann

What follows is a live blog of the event. The crowd is enjoying the coffee, cocktails, chicken strips and other items on the nibbling/sipping buffet right now, at 10 ’til six on a Friday night.  It appears there are about a dozen tripods and cameras set up on the press riser.  A large contingent of press from the Twin Cities is here.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty spoke last April at an Iowans for Tax Relief event.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared at an ITR fundraiser in October and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has done an event for the group, too.

At 6:15 p.m. Bachmann walked into the room and sat down next to Governor Terry Branstad.  As Ed Failor, Junior — president of Iowans for Tax Relief — started the introduction, a handful of still photographers crouched in front of Bachmann to take her photo.

“There’s been a sea change,” Failor said of the Iowa Legislature.  Several legislators are here — House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer sitting just behind Branstad.  Senators Bill Dix and Kent Sorenson are here, too, and just got a round of applause from the crowd.

As Failor speaks, Branstad and Bachmann are having a conversation in the front row.  “We had a massive sea change at the national level as well,” Failor said.

Failor alluded to Bachmann’s presidential ambitions. “I don’t care what’s next, but I tell you what, I hope you continue to lead the debate,” Failor said to Bachmann.

After thanking the crowd for the reception, she began her remarks by talking about her Iowa roots. “I am an Iowan myself…I’m a seventh generation (Iowan).  My dad called us Iowegians…You may know my other brother,”  Bachmann said, mentioning her brother Gary Amble had been a TV weatherman in Des Moines.

Bachmann called today a “coming home” for her. “Iowans are so nice,” she said.  “…My dad always used to tell me Iowans are the best looking people in the wordl…He’s absolutely correct.”

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