Sunday, July 08, 2007

GOP: Desperate Already?

by Ryan Anderson
Sen. Tom White's barely into his first term in office, his promising Nebraska Leadership Project has only just begun, but already this titan-in-training has the Nebraska GOP running scared: whooping and hollering and trying every lame trick in the book to kill this revolution in its crib.

The source of their consternation? White's unsuccessful but politically brilliant effort to reframe the tax debate, challenging Governor Heineman's attempt to package regressive income tax reform as "middle class relief" by offering real relief to the real burden of Nebraska's middle class: property taxes. White's bill would've offered every homeowner a $500 tax credit to help offset the rising cost of local and county government, a plan Nebraskan taxpayers support by an overwhelming 85-13%.

How do you kill something that popular? A few boogeymen might help:
Sen. White, who is a high-priced trial attorney from Omaha and a long time Democrat activist, had every opportunity this year to put aside his partisanship and help eliminate the tax-and-spend mentality that has so brutally stifled economic growth in Nebraska. But rather than do what’s best for our middle-class, working families, Sen. White teamed up with Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy and assumed their nationwide Democrat strategy of unproductive negative criticism.
Sadly, that emphasis is theirs, not mine. Odd that they didn't bold "trial attorney" and "Democrat activist" as well, but maybe the names Dean and Kennedy have lost some luster since their unsuccessful deployment against Ben Nelson last spring.

Sloppy as these scare tactics may be, the NE-GOP remains a master at that other classic move: playing dumb.
Governor Heineman led the effort to eliminate the Estate Tax which Senator White believes only benefits the wealthy. Apparently, Senator White hasn’t ventured outside his comfy confines of Omaha to talk to middle-class Nebraska farmers who can’t afford to leave the family farm to their children due to the unjust and punitive Estate Tax.
Uh-huh, except White's proposal also included a provision to eliminate the estate tax. On this issue, the Republican "fact-checkers" weren't even close. This isn't just spin, this is lies.
A property tax cut was not “scuttled by the Governor and his allies.” This is a flat out distortion. Property tax relief was incorporated into the largest tax relief package in the history of the state. This package was permanent, lasting, and curbed uncontrolled government spending....

Senator White suggested an income tax credit for homeowners, not a property tax cut. So a homeowner would still pay the same amount in property taxes, but later get an income tax credit paid for by a surplus in the cash reserve. Sound confusing? That was Sen. White’s intent.
Sound confusing? Really? Does anyone out there really not understand the concept of an income tax credit for people who pay property taxes? I mean, anyone who isn't on the Republican Party payroll?

In fact, Sen White's proposal offered relief far more effectively and directly than Governor Heineman's plan, which repreated the tried-but-not-true tactic of diverting more state funds into county coffers in the hopes that rates will come down. Of course, that's exactly the same strategy that Heineman so vocally denounced as a "tax shift" and not a "tax cut".

Confused? That was their intent.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan - what is that you are quoting? is it something the NEGOP put out?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Ryan is actually quoting the front-page of the Nebraska Republican Party's website. I'm glad he called them on their shameless distortions...even if I'm not particularly inclined to celebrate Sen. White's role in resurrecting Nebraska's recent repeal of the Estate Tax.

Still, the man is putting forward a bold vision for our state that is very promising indeed. The Republican Party should be on high-alert. They're in a lot of trouble if voters start to recognize that its only Democratic lawmakers like Sen. White who are actually willing to fight for their constituents and stand-up for Nebraska's middle class.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan, I just got on the GOP website and read thier post. One thing you didn't comment on was their claim that Sen. White's proposed tax cut wasn't permanent. Is that true? If not, how many years would the tax cut last?

In Senator White's letter he calls it a $500 property tax cut, but they are calling it a tax credit--I assume property taxes actually go down by $500 with Sen. White's plan, and trying to say it's not a tax cut is a GOP scare tactic? Senator White wouldn't call it a property tax cut if it didn't cut property taxes, right?

Also, why are there not more democrat senators on board with this. I think Senator White is right on track with how to start winning races in NE--you said it--if it's only Democrat lawmakers who will stand up for the middle the middle class, the repubs are in trouble. But why did usually solid democrat lawmakers like Nantkes and Shimick vote against this?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Sen. White's proposal was essentially a $500 reimbursement from the state on property taxes paid locally. As such, I'd say it could reasonably be called a tax cut or a tax credit since it exists somewhere between the two.

White's proposal was only for the two years of this budget, which would have then left it to future legislatures to decide whether the program was still sustainable depending on the state's revenue and business climate. I'd say this approach makes a lot of sense so the state could avoid future budget disasters like that we experienced during the Johanns administration.

A majority of state senators signed onto White's proposal early in the session before Heineman started leaning on Republicans and Revenue Committee Chair Ray Janssen to kill it because it jeopardized his more corporate-friendly tax cutting plan.

I can't speak to individual senators' votes, but Democratic legislators definitely would have preferred a tax cut package that would have targeted its relief more to the working class. I don't think White's plan was perfect - I can't even say I would have personally voted for it - but it certainly deserved fairer treatment and a more honest hearing before the people of this state rather than getting sandbagged behind closed doors at the behest of Heineman and his public relations team at the Omaha World-Herald.

Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

For the record, I don't share Sen. White's position on the Estate Tax, either. But it's thoroughly ridiculous and shamelessly dishonest of the NE-GOP to criticize him for supposedly opposing a policy he championed.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another reason why Democrats weren't behind Sen. White's move is because he did it out of the Committee system. Sen. Schimek said something along the lines that Sen. White did not "respect the Committee system" when he proposed his tax cut. Albeit, the way Sen. White did introduce his amendment to the tax plan this past session was unorthodox but you have to admire his versatility to have his plan debated.

Luke Peterson

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "committee system" argument is nothing but a Republican ploy, and thankfully only one or two Democrats fell for it. Committees are simply a small group of senators, and if the plan they advance sucks (as the tax package did), then it is perfectly legitimate to gut it.

Blogger Unknown said...

The thing that gets me is the Republican desire to win at all costs, and that means they have no problem with lying to acheive that end. To them it's justified and right to do so if they win in the end. As a result of this lack of morality, it puts Dems in the position of always defending and putting out the truth. But the lies would have been heard and believe by a few before the truth came out, and they won't hear that truth. With each lie, a few more people are called over to their side. It's a tactic they've learned to use and use well. It's scary and it's depressing. Yet they always try to claim they are the party of moral values. It boggles the mind.

But I heard a good comment the other day from Robert Wuhl of all people. He said that Republicans play to win, while Democrats play to make a point.


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