Iowa’s largest and most influential tax relief organization endorsed former Governor Terry Branstad’s campaign yesterday. Iowans for Tax Relief had never backed a gubernatorial candidate in a contested primary before endorsing Branstad.
This is the second major endorsement Branstad has received in the last two-weeks. Last week, State Auditor Dave Vaudt, who also has never endorsed candidates in a primary, publically backed Branstad. Both endorsements help insulate Branstad from recent attacks from his Republican opponents and a liberal group that is trying to influence Republican primary voters.
In endorsing Branstad, Ed Failor, Jr, the president of Iowans for Tax Relief said, “No governor before or since Terry Branstad has done more to reduce the tax burden on Iowa families.”
Failor noted that, as governor, Branstad signed the 10% across-the-board income tax cut for all Iowans. That tax cut is the largest tax cut in the state’s history. He also praised Branstad for eliminating the state inheritance tax for children and grandchildren, and indexing income taxes so inflation does not push Iowans into higher and higher tax brackets.
Failor also pointed out that Iowans for Tax Relief has not always seen eye-to-eye with the former governor in the past. In the late 80’s, Branstad supported eliminating federal deductibility in exchange for across the board tax cuts. Branstad laughed and said that he saw first hand how much Iowans care about the issue. Failor added, “We haven’t always agreed with Terry Branstad, but he’s a learner – he’s a listener.”
Branstad has also laid out the most detailed plan of all the Republican candidates in terms of spending and job creation. He has pledged to veto any budget that doesn’t comply with the state’s 99% spending limitation. He will push the legislature to switch to biannual budgets, while developing even longer-term budgeting plans. Branstad has also proposed reforming and reducing commercial property taxes, along with cutting Iowa’s corporate income tax in half as a way to stimulate the economy.
Additionally, Failor pointed out that Branstad has become a true champion of the need to protect federal deductibility as an essential part of Iowa’s tax code and strongly supports the People’s Right to Vote Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, to give Iowans the final say on future tax increases.
Branstad’s opponents have been quick to question the endorsement because of the tax hikes he passed as governor. While Branstad increased the state’s sales tax twice and also hiked the road use tax, he was a net tax cutter. In the 16 years he served as governor, Branstad reduced taxes on Iowan’s by more than $124 million.
Branstad also has been accused of growing the size of government during his years in office. While also true, his opponents fail to point out that he removed school aid from the backs of the local property tax payer and instead funded it through the state’s general fund. Any time a move like that is made, it will add to the size of the state budget.
Branstad’s most vocal critic, Bob Vander Plaats, has proposed to remove mental health spending from the backs of local property taxpayers and instead pay for those services with state general fund dollars. Doing so would add to the size of the state budget. So, while it’s fair to say that Branstad grew government, it’s also fair to say that Bob Vander Plaats has pledged to grow government in a similar manner.
When asked what Iowans for Tax Relief would do if Branstad wasn’t the nominee, Falior indicated that he doesn’t see any reason to believe that he will not win the primary. He also indicated that, if Branstad were to lose the primary election, his group would obviously look to back Vander Plaats or Roberts since the main goal is defeating Governor Chet Culver.
Failor did take a shot, however, at the Iowa Family Policy Center. IFPC endorsed Bob Vander Plaats, but in doing so stated that under no circumstances could they support Branstad. One of the reasons they cited for this decision was Branstad’s record on taxes.
At the press conference, Failor said, “[IFPC] is an organization that has taken $3 million out of the pockets of the taxpayers. I think they have an arena where they can speak legitimately in, but we represent the taxpayer, and that is the arena that we are legitimate in. In 32 years, Iowans for Tax Relieve has not taken a dime out of the pocket of the taxpayer and we never will.”
Iowans for Tax Relief made it very clear that their top priority is defeating Governor Chet Culver this fall. They also believe that Terry Branstad is the only candidate who can accomplish that goal.
It should be noted that Branstad’s oldest son is presently the development director for ITR, and his campaign manager is a former executive with the group. However, Failor said that ITR is judging Branstad on his record.
“While we have not always agreed with Terry Branstad, we judge a leader’s actions by the end result, and there is no denying he has been a true friend of Iowa taxpayers. Terry Branstad is the candidate who is ready on day one to lead Iowa forward,” said Failor.
“Iowa is in desperate need of strong, proven leadership, and Terry Branstad is the one candidate in this Republican field who can both defeat Chet Culver and then successfully lead a pro-taxpayer agenda through the Iowa Legislature.”
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