Campaign flier's claims are incomplete snapshots

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: October 12 2012 | 9:58 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 1:53 am in

RESEARCH

They say timing is everything.

That seems to be the case in the Iowa House 68 race where Democratic challenger Daniel Lundby has attacked incumbent Rep. Nick Wagner, R-Marion, for votes on school funding and property taxes. Lundby alleges Wagner “opposed commercial property tax reductions for Marion local independent and small businesses.” In a flier mailed to House 68 residents, Lundby also said Wagner, the vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “voted to cut state funding for Linn-Mar and Marion Independent School districts, resulting in larger residential tax bills.”

Wagner calls both assertions false.

“Both Linn-Mar and Marion saw increases in state aid,” he said.

He goes on to say he supported broad-based property tax relief for all classes of property — residential, ag and commercial/industrial.

Who’s right?

That’s where timing comes in.

In January 2011, Wagner did vote against a narrowly crafted commercial property tax amendment. However, he supported broader packages offering relief to all classes of property tax payers.

The amendment Lundby cites — H-1013 to House File 45 — would have used money in a tax relief fund to buy down commercial property tax rates for “main street businesses.” Those were defined as businesses with no more than 35 employees located in Iowa and owned and managed by an Iowa resident.

It failed on a party-line vote, 40-60, with Wagner voting “no.”

The amendment, offered by a Democrat, is what legislative observers called a “brochure amendment.” Those are amendments one party or the other proposes knowing it will be defeated, but then can be used in campaign ads, just as Lundby is doing.

In opposing the amendment, Wagner said it would have denied property tax relief to many Marion businesses simply because they have more than 35 employees.

The House later passed property tax relief bills Republicans say would have resulted in relief for all classes of property.

The GOP plan called for the state to pick up more of the cost of K-12 education.

That would have reduced local school districts’ reliance on property tax revenue, thereby reducing taxes on all property.

However, the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, did not take up the measure.

In regard to education funding, Lundby is correct that Wagner voted for House File 185, setting a 0 percent allowable growth rate for school funding.

However, in the end, the Legislature increased funding to both Linn-Mar and Marion Independent. Linn-Mar’s state aid went from $32.6 million in 2010-11 to $35.3 million in 2011-12. Marion’s funding rose from $8 million in 2010-11 to $8.3 million in 2011-12.

The House also approved a $215 million to “backfill” property taxes that were used to compensate local school district for state aid that was lost when Democratic Gov. Chet Culver ordered a 10 percent across-the-board spending cut.

OUR SCORE

Lundby’s charge that Wagner voted against a specific property tax relief measure is correct — up to a point. However, it ignores later legislative votes and does not reflect the entirety of legislative action.

On education funding, the measure Lundby cites, by itself, neither increased nor decreased funding. Without setting an allowable growth rate, the Legislature — with bipartisan support, including Wagner’s — nonetheless increased funding for the Linn-Mar and Marion districts.

We score Lundby’s claims as mostly false.

— Researched and reported by James Lynch, reviewed by Gregg Hennigan and Erin Jordan, edited by Jeff Tecklenburg.

LINKS

l HF 185 — http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&

Service=Billbook&menu=false&hbill=hf185

l HJ 296 — https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/pubs/hjweb/pdf/February%2008,%202011.pdf#page=13

l H-1013 to HF 45 — http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=

billinfo&Service=Billbook&menu=false&ga=84&hbill=H1013

l HJ 125 — https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/pubs/hjweb/pdf/January%2019,%202011.pdf#page=13

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