A truth test for Jim Matheson and Mia Love: Digging into the political claims

Published: Sunday, Oct. 14 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

A House Majority PAC ad said voters should look at Mia Love's resume before voting, because it shows that she voted to raise property taxes three times while on the Saratoga Spring City Council. A Matheson4Congress video lists the three Saratoga Springs tax increases, showing a 116 percent increase from 2007-2008, a 21 percent increase from 2008-2009 and a 13 percent increase from 2009-2010.

As a newer city, Saratoga Springs was growing rapidly until the 2008 housing market crash brought development to a halt, leaving the city with a $3 million shortfall. The City Council, including Love, approved a 116 percent increase mostly to pay for police and fire protection. It was the first property tax increase in the city's history, the Deseret News reported in September.

Love served on the council and was mayor — the mayor does not have a vote — during the other two tax increases Matheson cites. But that did not necessarily result in homeowners paying more tax.

Utah cities are guaranteed the same amount of property tax revenue plus an adjustment for growth each year. When property values fall, as they have in Saratoga Springs, the rate is adjusted upward to maintain the property tax revenue.

If a city want to bring in more revenue, it must hold a Truth-in-Taxation hearing, which Saratoga Springs did only in 2008.

In a debate, Matheson hit Love for the increases, saying Saratoga Springs residents ought to be asking why their property taxes are so much higher than those of surrounding areas. Love countered that cities balance budgets differently, and that while Eagle Mountain uses utilities to balance its budgets, Saratoga Springs uses property taxes to cover only public safety, and utilities pay for nothing but utilities.

The claim: Love wants to cut all college student loans

During a debate on KSL, Matheson accused Love of wanting to get rid of all college student loans even though she used college student loans herself. "She took them herself, but she doesn't think anybody else should have them," Matheson said.

Love did release a plan that outlines ways Washington could cut federal spending, including eliminating the U.S. Department of Education and ending student aid and all other programs.

During the KSL debate, Love said she's talking specifically about ending student aid on the federal level. Love hailed Gov. Gary Herbert's efforts to invest in education and to encourage 66 percent of adult Utahns to earn a postsecondary degree or a professional certification by 2020 as an example of state-driven reform. She also said colleges need to apply free market principles, and that by providing federal student aid, it feeds a bubble that will one day burst.

The claim: Love wants to cut money for law enforcement as the Saratoga Springs crime rate increases

A Center Forward PAC ad criticizes Love for suggesting an end to state and local grants from the Department of Justice. The proposal, part of Love's budget-cutting plan, says that cutting those grants would save $5 billion. During a KSL debate, Matheson echoed a similar argument to the Center Forward PAC ad, accusing Love of wanting to cut funding for bulletproof vests for police officers.

In another debate, Love argued that Saratoga Springs has always been able to give the police department what it needs to make sure the town is safe. Instead of having the government borrow and tax in order to give money back to cities, cities should be able to keep money local and provide for local law enforcement without federal strings attached, she said.

Matheson has argued that Love's record in Saratoga Springs shows increases in crime, while the Center Forward ad says Love's legacy is one of "skyrocketing crime." According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, 12.9 crimes were committed per 1,000 residents in Saratoga Springs in 2010, making it the third lowest among Utah County cities. The county average was 23.1 crimes per 1,000, the Deseret News has reported.

The claim: Love took a 30 percent mayoral pay raise

According to a House Majority PAC ad, Love "took a 30 percent pay raise" as mayor of Saratoga Springs. In a Deseret News interview, councilman Mike McOmber said Love argued against the pay raise, which bumped her salary from $600 to $830 a month.

The claim: Saratoga Springs took stimulus money

During the KSL debate, Love hit Matheson for his support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, saying the stimulus package was a failure. Matheson responded by saying Love's opposition to the stimulus is hypocritical, because Saratoga Springs took stimulus money.

According to Recovery.gov, Saratoga Springs was awarded $10,000 from funds that were originally sent to the state of Utah and then distributed. The funds were in the form of a JAG-ARRA grant, which allocated funding to units of state and local government along with private providers of criminal justice services.

The claim: Love wants to privatize Medicare and create vouchers for seniors

A Daily Kos article accuses Love of wanting to privatize Social Security and wanting to end Medicare as people know it. Matheson has repeated similar accusations during debates with Love, saying she wants to put Social Security money at risk in the stock market and hand seniors a voucher, only to tell them they're on their own if prices go up. During one of the candidates' debates, Love said she is looking at the Paul Ryan plan, which would privatize Medicare and turn Medicaid and other programs into block grant programs to the states. It would not change Medicare for those currently on the program.

According to Love's proposed cuts, she suggests repealing the 2010 health care law, block-granting Medicaid and freezing spending, cutting non-Medicaid state/local grants by 50 percent, cutting the Medicare payment error rate by 50 percent and enacting tort reform.

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