Iowans for Tax Relief lauds Obama today

Iowans for Tax Relief and a handful of Republican legislators today held a news conference to call for posting the state budget on-line, in a searchable database, so the public can review the records, see where/how their tax dollars are being spent and perhaps make suggestions for savings.  Click on this link to the Radio Iowa story and you can access the 12-minute-long mp3 of the news conference.

One wag (it wasn't ME) who read the Iowans for Tax Relief news release used the "text phrase" LOL to describe their reaction to how many times Barack Obama is mentioned. (LOL means Laughing Out Loud.)  If you read yesterday's blog post, you know that today's news conference in Des Moines happened while former state Senator Mary Lundby's funeral was being held in Cedar Rapids .  Todd Dorman, a columnist and blogger for The Cedar Rapids Gazette, headlined his post "Iowans for Questionable Timing."

Here is the ITR news release, with Obama's name highlighted so you can count the number of times his name is mentioned:

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Iowans for Tax Relief supports President Barack Obama's mission for a transparent government.

MUSCATINE, IA— Iowans for Tax Relief supports President Barack Obama's push for a transparent government, with legislation to implement a website providing transparency of taxing and spending by Iowa government.

In keeping with the spirit of a fully transparent government, members of the Iowa House and Senate introduced legislation today requiring the implementation of a website to provide true transparency of taxing and spending in Iowa government.

When in the United States Senate in 2006, then Senator Obama, sponsored legislation and successfully implemented a website providing Americans with a fee-free searchable database to see how our federal tax dollars are spent.

"I am very pleased President Obama is keeping his pledge to promote greater transparency in government. He sponsored legislation as a senator which increased transparency, and yesterday in his inaugural speech, President Obama made clear, accountability and transparency in government are part of his agenda for change," said Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief.

Each year Iowans pay more than $4,700 per person in state and local taxes. The implementation of an Iowa Transparency website would likely have a limited price tag under $40,000. Software is available at no cost from the federal government and some states have partnered with private businesses to develop state websites.

Failor continued, "Iowans for Tax Relief agrees with President Obama and we endorse his call for change. The people are the consumer of government, and all Iowans should be able to find out exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. I want to thank the bill sponsors who are here today and ask all other Legislators to honor the agenda of our new President and support swift passage of this bill."
Currently there are nine states with government spending transparency websites, including our border state of Missouri (
www.mapyourtaxes.mo.gov).

The bill would require the Iowa Department of Management (the state budgeting office) to develop and operate a single searchable web site, by January 1, 2011, for Iowa taxpayers to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent. The legislation also requires the Iowa Department of Management along with the Department of Revenue to develop and operate a searchable database and clickable map of all the tax rates in the state for each taxing jurisdiction. The database shall also include a tax rate calculator for taxpayers to calculate their taxes or potential taxes.

"We all deserve to determine for ourselves if government is efficient and effective with our tax dollars. Taxpaying Iowans who pay the bills of government should be able to review how their hard earned tax dollars are spent. With true transparency every day Iowans, not just legislators and the budget managers, can find new ways to provide savings. We believe Iowans deserve to see how their tax dollars are spent and we are honored to be part of advancing President Obama's agenda for greater transparency in government," continued Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief.

Iowans for Tax Relief is excited to support the goal of President Obama for a truly transparent government. We thank bill sponsors; Rep. Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner), Rep. Doug Struyk (R-Council Bluffs), Rep. Erik Helland (R-Grimes), Senator Kim Reynolds (R-Osceola) and Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (R-Davenport). We hope for swift passage of this bill through the Iowa Legislature and urge Governor Culver to sign the Iowa Transparency Act into law.

We ask all Iowa taxpayers to contact their state legislators by phone or email as soon as possible.
Iowa House Switchboard (515) 281-3221; Iowa Senate Switchboard (515) 281-3371; and visit our website if you need email addresses or you are unsure of your state legislators at
www.taxrelief.org.
You can search federal government spending at
www.USAspending.gov 24-hours a day and 7-days a week.

(Editor's note:  by my count, that's eight direct Obama mentions, one indirect "our new president" mention…Of further note, Failor was among the consultants on John McCain's payroll until July, 2007.)

An interesting ITR decision

Iowans for Tax Relief has scheduled a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.  The timing is interesting, as many legislators will be in Cedar Rapids, attending the funeral of former state Senator Mary Lundby of Marion.  The funeral is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. It appears the leader of Iowans for Tax Relief has no plans to pay his respects to Lundby at her funeral, as according to the news release Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Junior, will be in Des Moines leading the news conference.

Lundby was a Republican and in April of 2006 she took over as Republican leader of the Iowa Senate in what many considered a surprise move. Republicans in the senate met privately and ousted their leader, Stewart Iverson (a longtime friend of Iowans for Tax Relief), installing Lundby as Co-Majority Leader of the Iowa Senate. 

Kathleen Koberg, a spokewoman for Iowans for Tax Relief, responded to a question from me about the timing of the news conference. I asked whether it would, indeed, occur during the time Lundby's funeral would be held.  "Press conference is in Des Moines.  No conflict for attendees of either," Koberg wrote in an email.  "Didn't imagine a press conference in Des Moines could possibly be perceived negatively."

According to an ITR news release, the following legislators are scheduled to speak at the ITR news conference tomorrow: Representative Erik Helland (R- Grimes); Representative Doug Struyk (R- Council Bluffs); Representative Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner); Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (R- Davenport); Senator Kim Reynolds (R- Osceola). All but Struyk and Upmeyer are newcomers in the legislature, so Helland, Hamerlinck and Reynolds did not serve with Lundby — who was a state representative for eight years and a state senator for the past 14 years.  Upmeyer, who was elected to the Iowa House in 2002, is currently the top-ranking Republican woman in the Iowa House. She's the minority whip. According to campaign documents, the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC donated $5000 to Upmeyer in the 2008 election cycle.

UPDATE AT 8:50 P.M.:  I went out to eat this evening, as did Representative Upmeyer.  We were just able to talk, via phone.  "Mary (Lundby) would be pleased to see what we have happening (tomorrow)," Upmeyer said to conclude the conversation.  "It'll be good."

I opened with a question.  Why are you having this news conference in Des Moines during Lundby's funeral in Marion?  "Kraig did not want both of us to be gone," Upmeyer began, referencing House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen.  Upmeyer is the #2 Republican in the House this year.  "He really wanted one of us to be in (Des Moines).  As much as I wanted wanted to go and honor Mary, Kraig needs to go and wants to go very badly (to Lundby's funeral) and one of us needed to stay back and it needed to be me," Upmeyer said. Paulsen is from Hiawatha so he, like Lundby is/was a Linn County legislator. The primary reason for Upmeyer to stay in Des Moines tomorrow, however, is the on-call status of the House Rebuild Iowa Committee, according to Upmeyer.  While Democrats who control the legislature's debate agenda have suspended committee action in both the Senate and House tomorrow, Upmeyer says members of the Rebuild Iowa Committee in the House have been told to be ready to meet if the flood recovery bill is drafted and ready for consideration. 

"That's the only reason we did it differently. Honestly, we could have delayed this news conference a day and it would have been fine," Upmeyer said of the ITR news conference.  "…You know, Mary was a wonderful lady. She was somebody that was an inspiration to me really way, way back when I was involved in community colleges and came to the hill to talk to people about why we needed to fund community colleges. She was a woman who was a real inspiration and I definitely wanted to be there, but nonetheless it's the right thing for one of us (House Republican leaders) to stay in Des Moines and look after business. That's what we were elected to do."

"…Mary's gone and Mary knows that I would love to be there," Upmeyer says.  "That's OK.  Mary would be pleased to see what we have happening tomorrow (at the ITR news conference). It'll be good."