Pilot Editorial

Thursday, June 26, 2003

A case against partisan politics

The word is that Iowa Republican legislative leaders are planning to sue Governor Tom Vilsack, steaming over the veto of a planned income tax cut from the huge economic stimulation package finally signed into law recently.

Is it political sour grapes, or an orchestrated move all about future control of Terrace Hill heading into an election cycle? It doesn't really matter.

What it amounts to is another ugly partisan battle in Des Moines, one that will do little to shore up the public's already-shaky confidence in politicians to find a way out of the stagnant economy facing the state.

There is no right or wrong in this instance - both Vilsack and the GOP leaders have strong points.

The Republicans insist that tax reform and leaving more of the income tax dollars in the pockets of Iowa workers is a necessary element to improving the economy. They are right - disposable income and consumer confidence to buy are necessary, income tax reform is overdue, and who's going to turn down a lower state tax bill?

Vilsack argues that the state budget is already hurting to the point where critical funds to important services and funding to local communities are being slashed, and a big tax cut now could leave both state and local governments in a shambles. He's right too - just ask the Storm Lake City Council or county supervisors, who are having to prepare to cut programs right now in anticipation of lower state funding.

It's a chick-or-the-egg dilemma - what comes first, growing the economy to produce more tax revenue, or cutting taxes to spur economic growth? We are clearly lacking a consensus in Iowa...

So, legislative leaders are interviewing lawyers to sue the governor, and the governor is loudly staking a claim to the power to pick and choose programs passed by the legislature for Iowa's future. It's not a pretty picture, or one that inspires confidence. A session that started out with great promise of bipartisan teamwork toward a new day for Iowa's economy - and one that has produced some promising results in that direction - ends again on a bitter note, with perhaps a protracted court battle to show for it.

We should focus on doing what we can with the positive tools lawmakers have given us this year - the Iowa Values Fund and its investments in attracting high-technology and biotech jobs to the state, the unemployment compensation surcharge needed to keep rural Iowa Workforce Development (no longer "unemployment") offices operating in Storm Lake and elsewhere, efforts to streamline services for businesses through the Iowa Department of Economic Development, and a pilot project that could lead to some badly-needed property tax equity.

These are good and badly-needed measures, but they will take cooperation from both sides of the political aisle to put to proper use.

Iowans don't need legislators and the governor fighting in a courtroom in the months to come, they deserve to have them working together toward a common cause.

Lawsuits and power plays are the political equivalent of a child running home crying with their football when the game doesn't go entirely their way.

Both Republicans and Democrats got some of what they wanted this session, and it should end on a more positive note than litigation.

If our leaders can't sit down and work out their own issues, can we really trust them to work on ours?