The five Democrats competing for their party’s nomination for governor met in their final televised debate tonight, each offering a critique of the tax plan Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law this afternoon.
All the candidates argue the plan will provide little, if any tax relief for low and middle income Iowans. However, three of the candidates expressed support for some elements of the new law, like assessing the state sales tax on a wider variety of electronic purchases. John Norris has called for a full repeal of the plan, though, and Norris offered this “advice” to rival Fred Hubbell.
“Be cautious about being against that tax cut before you were for it,” Norris said. “That will be a difficult position to both criticize it and defend it in this election, if you get there.”
Hubbell, who called the bill “risky and irresponsible” as legislators debated it, says the reality is the tax plan is now state law and the person who’s elected in November must deal with it.
“When you’re a governor, you have to recognize that you’re governor of everybody, not just a few people,” Hubbell said. “You have to recognize the pieces that are good and get rid of all the rest.”
Earlier in the day, Governor Reynolds told reporters the tax issue will be a clear dividing line between Republicans and Democrats this fall.
“Iowans will have to make that choice,” Reynolds said.
The Democratic candidates on stage tonight suggested the choice Reynolds and her fellow Republicans made will bankrupt the state. Ross Wilburn, the former mayor of Iowa City, said after the state budget cuts Republican lawmakers were forced to make over the past two years, tax cuts aren’t wise.
“During a time like this, when we’ve got a whole in the budget, it’s not something that we can afford to do.”
Andy McGuire, a medical doctor, said Republicans legislators and Governor Reynolds have failed to providing enough for education, health care and other important government functions.
“When you’re cutting right now for the services, the math doesn’t add up to then cut your revenue,” McGuire said.
Norris, who was chief of staff for former Governor Tom Vilsack, accused the Reynolds Administration of being run by corporate lobbyists.
“And look at these tax cuts and tax breaks that are carved out, that are eroding our capacity to invest in education and health care in this state,” Norris said.
Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, suggested the GOP was employing the “trickle-down theory.”
“Just cut everything that you can. Reduce your revenues and hope that all of a sudden revenues go up,” Hubbell said. “It’s been proven many times not to work.”
Cathy Glasson of Coralville, a nurse and union organizer, called for taxing the wealthy “a little bit more” and the poor “a little bit less.” She’d also legalize marijuana for personal use — and tax it.
“We know that there are other states in this country, particularly Oregon that generated $85 million by doing that,” Glasson said.
The candidate forum was sponsored by The Des Moines Register and KCCI Television in Des Moines, which broadcast the event live.