UE and other unions led a strong, come-from-behind campaign to
defeat two tax-related amendments to the Iowa constitution, both heavily
favored to gain voter endorsement in a special election on June 29.
The amendments would have limited state government spending to
99 percent of revenues and required a 60 percent majority of the legislature
to raise taxes.
"Everyone was surprised that the amendments failed,"
commented Dan Kelley, president of Local 893-IUP. After the
state legislature’s endorsement of the amendments, early polls showed the
proposals had 75 percent support. Proponents dramatically outspent opponents.
"We were buried in television ads," pointed out Kelley — ads that
portrayed the amendments as a protection against higher taxes.
But backers were denied a sure victory by low voter turnout
— only about 25 percent of the electorate voted — combined with active
opposition by unions, public reservations expressed by two of Iowa’s biggest
churches, opposition of the largest municipalities and concerns of public
officials. The first amendment went down to defeat with 49 percent of the
vote; the second amendment secured 48 percent.
"Clearly the UE and the other unions in the coalition
played a pretty significant role," said Local 893 Vice Pres. Bill
Austin. "The unions got the word out early that these were cleverly
disguised efforts to lock in tax breaks for the rich," the UE leader
"Nobody is very fond of paying taxes but the reality is
that without taxes you don’t have quality schools, roads or other essentials
of good government services," Austin said. "These amendments would
have made it impossible to have any tax reform that would have required the
wealthy to pay their fair share."
Defeat of the amendments, Austin said, is "a victory for
all of us."