Odds/Ends: Johnson Campaign Poll…Jazz Financing…Bishop Saves Puerto Rico

lavarr policy insightsThe Jonathan Johnson campaign, being pummeled by professional polling showing him far behind Gov. Gary Herbert in the primary election, is touting an “internal poll” showing the race a tossup after voters are “educated.”

Trouble is, put in perspective, even that poll shows Johnson doing poorly, given the “education” administered to survey respondents.

I received one of the automated robocalls from the Johnson survey, administered by Sierra Pacific Strategies from Salem, Oregon, owned by Russ Walker, who has done a lot of work for right-wing groups like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks (which has endorsed Johnson).

The classic push poll runs through a litany of misleading criticisms of Herbert, accusing him of raising taxes, giving the Obama administration veto power over Utah schools, accusing him of pay-to-play, etc. Then, having “educated” the voter with all the negativity, the recorded voice asks the respondent to choose between Herbert and Johnson.

Even then, Herbert beats Johnson by a point. I would have thought Johnson would be way ahead. The education wasn’t quite negative enough.

The problem for Johnson is that voters aren’t educated in a vacuum, hearing only negative stuff. Herbert is more than matching Johnson in paid media, doing his own education about how well the state’s economy is doing, how much money has gone to education, how he is fighting the federal government, and so forth. He also has numerous endorsement ads from prominent people talking about what a good governor he is. 

Johnson’s only hope is to produce a massive turnout of the right wing in a low-turnout primary election. Not likely.

Good job, Salt Lake City RDA. Despite criticism from an out-of-state, right-wing group, it was the right policy move for the SLC RDA to unanimously approve tax increment financing for the Utah Jazz’ Vivint Smart Home Arena. It’s a great deal for taxpayers, for jobs, and for broader economic development.

The Utah Jazz operation contributes enormously to Utah’s economy and quality of life. And the tax break doesn’t mean city leaders are writing out checks from current tax revenues. The Jazz will pay for the entire $125 million project. Then, if the project creates higher tax revenues (which it will), the Jazz will be reimbursed for about 18 percent of the cost of the project fromfuture increased tax revenues (that wouldn’t exist if the project hadn’t been done).

This sort of modest, conservative tax increment financing is common. It is vastly different than a government entity simply writing out a big check for a sports arena (as happens in some other states). 

The Utah Taxpayers Association looked into the proposal and supported it. Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded out-of-state group, didn’t bother to talk to the Jazz organization, but opposed it – and demonstrated ignorance by comparing it to homeowners who don’t get tax breaks.

Congrats to Rep. Rob Bishop and his Puerto Rico rescue bill. There is no political value in Utah for saving Puerto Rico from going over a fiscal cliff. Especially since an outside group was running radio ads in Utah criticizing Bishop.

But Bishop did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. It was good public policy. The legislation must still be passed by the Senate, so Puerto Rico remains at serious risk. But Bishop did his part, taking a thankless job (especially in Utah), and performing it well. Good for him.

Quote of the Day. Washington Post interview with Rep. Rob Bishop:  Roll Call noted a couple of years back that while you do have a Twitter account, you have “the unique honor of being the only person to never post a single thing” to it. Why not give it a whirl? You’d be great.

“Yes, I am the only one who has a Twitter account that’s never actually even tested it. And now you’ve challenged me into maintaining that standard. I don’t think I could in good conscience tweet from now on. You also have to realize I’m an old teacher. I taught grammar and English, and using abbreviations is something that used to drive me crazy. I insisted my students had to write “because” there was no such word as ‘cuz’ then.”

From the same interview: “I do not do business casual. I either have three-piece suits or shorts. There’s nothing in-between.”