Fact Checker: 'One-hundred grand for flower pots'

Ad makes claims about Democratic candidate for the first district congressional seat Pat Murphy.

Candidate for Congress Pat Murphy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Candidate for Congress Pat Murphy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)


“Murphy pushed to raise income taxes, raise sales taxes and raise property taxes. And what's Murphy done with our money? He's run up debt and backed wasteful spending. Even a hundred grand for decorative flower pots. And for himself? A nice pay raise.”

Source of claim

Television ad, “Know,” by American Action Network



This ad focuses on Pat Murphy, former Speaker of the Iowa House from Dubuque and Democratic candidate for the first district congressional seat. He is running against Republican Rod Blum, a businessman from Dubuque.


Claim 1: Higher income taxes, higher sales taxes and higher property taxes.

According to the American Action Network, an advocacy group supporting GOP candidates and causes, the claims about taxes stem from a 1992 report in The Gazette about a tax plan Murphy sponsored in the Iowa House.

The plan called for lowering state tax liability for those who make $50,000 or less, but significantly raise taxes for those who earn $75,000 a year or more. The plan would have decreased the tax liability for 89 percent of taxpayers, according to The Gazette report,

The tax plan also would have restricted the homestead tax credit to homes valued at $100,000 or less, meaning those who own and live in homes valued at more than $100,000 would not get the tax break.

While it's not formally increasing property taxes, it has the same effect. The current value of the credit is equal to the tax levy on the first $4,850 of a home's actual value, according to the Linn County Assessor's website.

Finally, the plan would limit sales tax exemptions for more than 20 services, including legal, accounting, limousine, small-animal veterinary, travel agent, financial reporting, interior design and decorating, swimming pool cleaning and maintenance, and computer services, according to The Gazette report.

Parts of this claim are misleading, such as citing a bill from than 20 years ago, and parts are mostly false, such as say the plan would raise income taxes since 89 percent of taxpayers would have seen a decrease. Other parts have both true and false aspects. It is true that some service would have seen a sales tax increase, but it was not an across-the-board sales tax increase. And, some people would have had a net increase in property taxes, but others would have seen no change.

Grade: D

Claim 2: Murphy ran up debt.

The Americans Action Network cited a previous Gazette-KCRG Fact Checker about debt incurred from then-Gov. Chet Culver's I-JOBS plan, which was approved during the 2009 and 2010 Legislative sessions. Murphy voted in favor of the plan.

The plan authorized $875 million for state infrastructure and modernization projects. I-JOBS was funded through the sale of bonds to be repaid by 2038 with state gambling revenue. The total net state revenue required to pay off the principal and interest on the bonds is $1.1 billion, according to Stefanie Devin, deputy state treasurer.

In 2011, the Associated Press reported that the state's debt increased by 33 percent to more than $1 billion in the previous fiscal year with I-JOBS and a new prison in Fort Madison as the biggest factors. The report stated Iowa had one of the lowest debt loads in the nation and given low interest rates it was a good time to borrow money.

Grade: A

Claim 3: Spending $100,000 for decorative flower pots.

In 2007, Murphy supported a bill to remodel the State Capitol building. One of the budget items was $120,000 “for the purchase and installation of decorative planters.”

Culver wound up vetoing that line from the bill.

Grade: A

Claim 4: Murphy voted to give himself a pay raise.

In 2005, Murphy, who was not in a leadership position at the time, supported a compensation bill that increased salaries for members of the General Assembly from $21,381 to $25,000.

Grade: A



While there are some pieces of the ad we question, overall we grade this ad's truthfulness a B.



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