Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Johnson County Sales Tax Vote

Sales Tax and the Audacity of No

As Johnson County gears up for the May 5 sales tax election, Yes forces are assembling the kind of both ends of the spectrum coalition that won the 2003 Iowa City school bond and the 2007 SILO election, with both the Chamber of Commerce and City Federation of Labor signed on in support.

The No team is nearly indistinguishable from the Flip No group that opposed the 2008 conservation bond; Indeed, their "Ax The Tax" web site pops up in a frame that reads flipno.com. The committee chair is Deb Thornton, until recently vice chair -- oops, co-chair of the Johnson County GOP. Treasurer is Chuck Seberg, one of the co-chairs of the Johnson County Republican finance committee.

The county Republican Party has formally endorsed a no vote, possibly putting the ideological, partisan wing against the pragmatist business win. It's a small scale version of the national fight, where Republican governors (those without presidential ambitions) have been more practical while the Congressional conservatives indulge in the Fierce Urgency of No over the stimulus plan.

Ax The Tax is underscoring the Read My Lips No New Taxes message with an April 15 Boston Tea Party, of the type that Linn County opponents held before their March 3 vote. (There was some media mirth; apperantly the DNR won't let you dump actual tea.) The contact for the tea party is Mike Thayer of Coralville Courier fame.

(Everyone knows, of course, that a proper Boston Tea Party should be held on Dec. 16 in honor of my birthday.)

So while the Yes camp (which hasn't rolled out its leadership yet, but expect big named) is the proverbial big tent, the No team looks like a Republican central committee meeting. The partisan stance runs the risk of pushing potential allies away and makes for a confusing message, as the libertarians meet the left group that opposed SILO learned. It's hard to reconcile "vote no because we want no taxes" with "vote no because we want a different tax." Garry Klein writes:
The best solution for the long-term health of the communities is one that isn't on the table. State Senator Joe Bolkcom tried to get a bill considered to allow localities to impose a local income tax.

Fair enough, but note those four words isn't on the table.

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