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

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 12:55 a.m. MDT

Candidates Mia Love and Jim Matheson are looking to woo voters in a tight 4th Congressional District race and advertisements from both camps and their party supporters are filling the airwaves.

Today we offer the following Truth Test, taking a look at the claims of both the Matheson and Love camps, and the political action committees that are funding advertisements.

Read more about the ad war raging between Rep. Jim Matheson and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love

What the Love campaign or Republican political action committees say about Jim Matheson:

The claim: Matheson voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act

Multiple claims about Matheson's support for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul fill advertisements and debate sound bites. During the KUTV/Salt Lake Tribune and KSL debates, Love accused Matheson of voting against the repeal of Obamacare in 2011. This claim was echoed in a super PAC ad from It's Now or Never Inc. A National Republican Congressional Committee ad accused Matheson of voting in support of the president's health care overhaul, saying he "voted thirteen times to fund Obamacare." In response to criticisms, Matheson said he has always opposed the health care overhaul.

Are both claims true? Since the Affordable Care Act's passage, the House has voted at least 33 times to remove parts of the law, limit funding or to repeal the law entirely. Matheson has supported some of those votes and rejected others.

In the three main votes being debated between the candidates, Thomas.gov shows that Matheson voted against the health care overhaul, against repealing the health care overhaul and later for its repeal. Matheson's vote against repeal came in Jan. 2011. In debates with Love, Matheson said he voted against repeal because he thought it prudent to let the judiciary have its say on the bill. After the Supreme Court's ruling in July, Matheson voted in favor of repeal. A Love ad accused Matheson of not telling the truth, citing a PoliticIt interview where Matheson said he didn't vote for outright repeal because the law gave rights to people that he "wasn't going to take away." He has, however, said he voted to repeal several components of the law.

The claim: Matheson voted for the stimulus bill

Ads from the NRCC and the Center for Individual Freedom dinged Matheson for his support of the 2009 stimulus. Another NRCC ad quoted Matheson saying, "We've got to stop spending and live within our means," before criticizing Matheson for voting for the $800 billion stimulus.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed into law on Feb. 13, 2009, as a way to stimulate the U.S. economy. The 2011 stimulus expenditure estimate was $787 billion, which was later increased to $840 billion. The main three components of the stimulus were tax cuts and benefits for families and businesses, funding for entitlement programs such as unemployment benefits and funding for federal contracts, grants and loans.

Matheson did vote for the stimulus, and he defended that vote during a KSL debate, saying the main component of the bill was a tax cut for every working American. The stimulus bill contained a number of tax provisions, including cuts that were mostly authorized for one or two years, the ProPublica website states.

The claim: Matheson funded Solyndra

During another debate between the candidates, Love said, "My opponent took $535 million of taxpayer dollars and funded Solyndra with it." Matheson accused her of being dishonest with voters, saying "there's never been a vote in legislation that said Solyndra. To suggest somehow I picked the Solyndra project and voted for it, that's just not being honest with the voters."

Solyndra was the first company to be awarded a federal loan guarantee under the stimulus, which Matheson voted for. However, Matheson is correct that he did not specifically vote funding for Solyndra. The stimulus bill created Section 1705 under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, authorizing a new program for rapid deployment of renewable energy systems and making funds available for renewable energy systems, electric power transmission and leading edge biofuels projects.

Mercatus.org reports that since 2009, the Department of Energy has guaranteed $34.7 billion through the 1705 loan program, the 1703 loan program and the ATVM. Solyndra received $535 million under 1705, and filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2011. In September of this year, Matheson voted in favor of the No More Solyndras Act, which would prevent DOE from approving any loan guarantee applications filed after 2011.

The claim: Matheson supported the bailouts

The Matheson campaign took issue Thursday with a NRCC ad that placed Matheson's image on the screen with the words "Obamacare" and "bailouts." Matheson countered that claim by saying he voted against TARP — the Troubled Asset Relief Program signed by President George W. Bush in 2008 — and the auto bailouts. The Bush administration provided General Motors and Chrysler with $13.4 billion in TARP funds in order to prevent bankruptcy, and the Obama administration provided more funds to keep the companies afloat as they filed for bankruptcy protection.

Matheson has released ads saying he "voted against all the bailouts" and supports his claims with articles from the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune. While the stories show Matheson voted against a $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008 (TARP) and therefore the auto bailout , another NRCC ad hit Matheson over a different 2008 vote, suggesting his vote in support of the American Housing Resource and Foreclosure Prevention Act, was a vote to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Opinions are divided over whether the foreclosure prevention bill was a bailout. TheMiddleClass.org wrote that it offers "a less generous bailout to mortgage lenders than it otherwise might" and that "the promise of a bailout is regrettably necessary to prevent further market destabilization."

Matheson voted against TARP and for the housing act.

The claim: Matheson wants to put Social Security money in the stock market

An NRCC ad accused Matheson of distorting Love's views on Social Security, saying Matheson, not Love, supports putting Social Security money in the stock market, letting Wall Street investors "gamble with those dollars." The ad cites a Deseret News article from 2000 where Matheson said he would like a pool of Social Security money placed into a broad range of "financially secure" investments, including stocks, that would return a much higher rate. Details could be worked out later, he said at the time.

On Matheson's House website, he states "as a country, we have all learned in the recent financial crisis that investing in the market can have unexpected highs and lows, and we simply cannot afford to gamble on the secure future of America's seniors." Matheson calls Social Security a "non-negotiable contract between the U.S. government and American workers."

In the KSL debate between Matheson and Love, Matheson said the U.S. should reform the program, but neither Social Security nor Medicare should be privatized.

The claim: Matheson voted to increase the national debt limit without spending cuts

An NRCC ad titled "Disappointing" says Matheson "sided with Obama and increased the national debt limit without spending cuts." The ad cites a 2009 vote for H.R. 4314, an act "to permit continued financing of government operations." The bill increased the public debt limit from $12.104 trillion to $12.394 trillion. Matheson voted in favor of the bill.

Federal law requires Congress to authorize the government to borrow money needed to pay for programs Congress has already passed. In order to do this, votes to raise the debt limit are occasionally required. According to the Congressional Research Service, the debt ceiling has been raised by both parties 74 times since March 1962.

What the Matheson campaign or Democratic political action committees say about Mia Love:

The claim: Love hiked property taxes three times in Saratoga Springs

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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