Mayor Greg Ballard's re-election campaign has launched a new ad that attacks his Democratic opponent, Melina Kennedy, for supporting the income tax increase four years ago that helped sink former Mayor Bart Peterson's campaign. The ad claims Kennedy was serving as Peterson's deputy mayor at the time the tax increase was proposed. That is untrue. Kennedy left Mayor Peterson's administration in 2004, three years before the tax increase was proposed and at a time Peterson was still publicly declaring his opposition to higher taxes. Kennedy did, however, support the tax increase for public safety funding. Four years ago, Ballard opposed the tax increase at the same time he was promising to add 750 new police officers.
Following his upset win over Peterson, Ballard refused to repeal the tax increase passed by the Democratic-controlled council and never hired any additional police officers. He claimed that the budget proposed by Peterson and passed by the Democrat council failed to appropriate the costs of police over-time work. In fact, he raised other taxes and fees over the past four years to support spending on the Capital Improvement Board and budget items other than public safety. Ballard takes credit for lower property taxes that are entirely the result of action taken by the state legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels, which were only made possible by hiking the state sales tax a full percentage point. Given Ballard's vulnerability on this issue, one has to wonder if it was a wise decision to attack Kennedy for being a proponent of higher taxes.
The negative attack ad against Kennedy seems to suggest Ballard may not have the double-digit lead in the polls his campaign claims their polling data shows he currently holds in the race. Democrats claim a poll of their own shows their candidate with a 2-point lead. Neither campaign has publicly shared the cross tabs to allow for independent analysis of their respective polls. WISH-TV's Jim Shella claims he has been allowed by the respective campaigns to look at their polling data and has learned Democrats' polling sample assumes there is a 10% Democratic advantage in party identification over Republicans, while Republicans claim there is only a 4% Democratic advantage. That may explain the differing poll results, but it's difficult to make much of the numbers until those offering them share all of the cross tabs for the sample comprising their respective polls.
UPDATE: IndyDemocrat blog has Kennedy's reaction to Ballard's attack ad, which she believes is in response to the Democrats' poll claiming she has a slight edge over Ballard:
Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after the poll was released, the Mayor began unleashing a personal and misleading attack ad. In the ad, the Mayor claims that I supported an income tax increase while I was Deputy Mayor. I had no role in this. And, if he is referring to the Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) increase in 2007, this occurred two years after I left my position with the City.
And more disappointing is that Mayor Ballard made a campaign pledge in 2008 to FULLY repeal the LOIT. Not only has he broken this promise, but since taking office he has raised taxes, rates and fees more than 140 times – 143 to be precise. These tax hikes imposed by the Mayor have stifled job creation throughout our city. And, the Mayor's tax increases have made it more difficult for entrepreneurs, small businesses and working families to survive and succeed in our city.
I am open to discussing our records and discussing the issues, but to attack me personally and attempt to mislead the public with distorted facts is the worst type of politics. The Mayor has claimed to not be political, but his attack ads are nothing more than a vastly political move to try and keep his job.And here's Ballard's response to Kennedy's reaction:
In response to our ad, Kennedy is trying to mislead voters by deflecting to another income tax increase that occurred later in that administration. The facts are:
Melina Kennedy served as Deputy Mayor in 2005 when the COIT increased from .7 to 1 - that's a 43% income tax increase.
Melina Kennedy was later quoted by the Indianapolis Star as saying,
While constantly attacking Mayor Ballard, Melina Kennedy tries to hide her record on taxes and fees. For example, when she served as Deputy Mayor, Melina Kennedy promoted raising the hotel tax, car rental tax, restaurant tax, and ticket tax.
Melina Kennedy's attacks on Mayor Ballard resulted in a recent Matthew Tully column entitled "Kennedy can't criticize Ballard on tax record."Again, I'm not sure why Ballard chose this issue to attack Kennedy's record. It's just too easy for her to play tit for tat and undermine his campaign meme that he somehow reduced taxes during the past four years, which is a patently false claim. Ironically, Ballard pushed raising the hotel tax, car rental tax, admissions tax, etc. when he was asking the legislature for help in bailing out the CIB. Now, the CIB is flush with money and has even diverted property tax revenues, a first in the city's history, to fund CIB activities, including a $33.5 million handout to the billionaire Simons' Indiana Pacers. His 2012 budget calls for a series of budget tricks to make what is otherwise an unbalanced budget appear to be balanced by shifting money around between funds and calling for unspecified budget reductions. It's deja vu all over again, as they say. Everyone knows Ballard will be asking for a tax increase next year if he is re-elected.