Earlier this week, Philip Rucker and Dan Balz of the Washington Post wrote an article about how Joni Ernst’s television ad about castrating hogs transformed Iowa’s Republican U.S. Senate race. Indeed, the provocative ad did more for Ernst’s candidacy than anything else she had done in the race, but does the ad’s pork cutting message stand up to the record that Ernst has compiled in the four years she has served in the Iowa Senate?
During Ernst’s tenure in the Iowa Senate, state spending has increased by nearly a billion dollars. The state budget ballooned from $6.010 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $6.959 billion for fiscal year 2015, which begins in July. That accounts for almost a 14 percent increase in spending over the four years that Ernst has been in the legislature. Federal spending over the same time period has actually grown at a much slower rate. Federal spending increased from $3.7956 trillion in fiscal year 2012 to $4.0595 trillion in fiscal year 2015, an increase of six percent.
As a member of the minority party in the Iowa Senate, Ernst has little control over the final budget deals that are agreed to by House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and Governor Branstad, but that doesn’t mean a legislator can’t use the legislative process to cut spending.
An examination of Ernst’s senate record shows that she has never offered an amendment that would cut spending in her time in the Iowa Senate. Perhaps that’s why Ernst uses her experience on the farm castrating pigs to tout her pork cutting in her campaign ad and not her record in the Iowa Senate. In fact, instead of cutting pork in the Iowa Senate, Ernst has a record of sponsoring amendments that actually increase spending.
Now it’s hard to argue with the things that Ernst wanted to spend money on, but once again her record as a state senator is at odds with the candidate she portrays herself to be in her campaign ads. Ernst sponsored amendments in 2013 that spent $11 million on intermodal transportation, an additional $9 million on pensions, and $240,000 on additional funding for non-public textbooks.
Ernst also sponsored an amendment to start a preschool scholarship program that would be an unlimited appropriation based on 25 percent of the K through 12 funding amount, which would be anywhere from $57 million under a one year Democrat proposal to $353 million if fully funded.
It would be one thing if Ernst fought to fund some project but then attacked state spending by proposing amendments to cut spending in other areas, but she’s never offered an amendment to cut spending. Worse yet, in addition to being complacent with the ever-growing size of state government, Ernst supported a gas tax increase and a sales tax on the internet. Ernst likes to talk about how she had to live within her means growing up, but that’s not been her approach as a state senator.
The message in Ernst’s “squeal” ad is that if you send her to Washington, she’s going to cut wasteful spending, repeal Obamacare, and balance the budget. Yet when given a chance to cut spending or fight Obamacare in Iowa, she took a pass.
Once again, the rhetoric of Ernst’s catchy ads doesn’t match her record. If she didn’t “make ‘em squeal” in Des Moines, it’s doubtful she’s going to make the big spenders squeal in Washington.
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