Dec 06

Don’t condescend on TABOR refund, Democrats

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

TABOR1 pictureDemocrats in the legislature are flirting with the idea of a ballot measure asking voters if the state can keep a likely refund dictated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Good for them. The state needs the money to backfill both K-12 and higher education, and for transportation.

But Democrats might want to refine their pitch. According to incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, “people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

Intentionally or not, her statement oozes the sort of condescension that voters detest.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_27061668/dont-condescend-tabor-refund-democrats

 

Nov 27

California’s experience makes economic, political benefits of Colorado’s TABOR clear

Rapid growth in the Colorado economy will increase state revenue in excess of the TABOR limit. Colorado’s TABOR constitutional amendment limits the growth of state revenue to the sum of population growth plus inflation; surplus revenue above that limit must be refunded to taxpayers.

Legislative analysts estimate $137 million in TABOR refunds for the next fiscal year. In the following year the state must offset surplus revenue with a temporary income tax rate reduction estimated at $234 million. Given the range of error in these estimates, the average Colorado household should expect to get somewhere between $50 and $100 per year in TABOR refunds.

Continue reading

Nov 09

Look to Ref C’s success for Colorado’s fiscal future

 

Editorials

Look to Ref C’s success for Colorado’s fiscal future

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

The late state  Sen.  Ken Gordon carries a sign at the Colorado Capitol showing his support for Referendums C and D  in September 2005. Voters passed the

The late state Sen. Ken Gordon carries a sign at the Colorado Capitol showing his support for Referendums C and D in September 2005. Voters passed the measure in November of that year. (Karl Gehring, Denver Post file)

The cyclically punitive nature of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights has put Colorado in a bind more than once.

Just last week, revenue estimates showed the state will exceed TABOR revenue caps in 2015-16 by $137 million and will have to issue refunds, which will mostly go to low-income residents as tax credits.

The “excess” is supposed to continue through 2016-17, and perhaps longer, with an additional $239 million forecast to be collected and refunded.

Yet, the state faces significant needs in education and transportation as it emerges from a recession and tries to recover from budget cuts.

And that is the bitter reality of TABOR, as true today as it was a decade ago: Its restraints hamper the state’s ability to have its budget rebound from a recession.

Now that elections are behind us, it’s time for state leaders to replicate the bipartisan will mustered in 2005 to craft a timeout from constitutional spending caps and put a measure before voters.

Referendum C was the product of intense negotiations between then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and the legislature, which was controlled by Democrats. It wasn’t easy to come to agreement on all the finer points, particularly when it came to the sunset provision of Ref C, which asked voters to let the state keep revenues above the TABOR cap.

But by the end of the 2005 legislative session, lawmakers and the governor had agreed on a plan — and after a hard-fought campaign, voters were persuaded to approve it as well.

Ref C is the template that should be followed today.

This would not be a “tax increase” any more than Ref C was, despite what critics will undoubtedly charge.

The measure would simply ask voters whether the state could keep revenues above the TABOR limit that it is already collecting.

Of course, passage of such a measure would end the prospect of refunds, but we think — we hope — voters would understand the need for fresh revenues to backfill recession-era cuts to K-12 funding.

And it should also be evident, given the recent hullabaloo over how the state has had to resort to private companies to help pay for major transportation projects such as U.S. 36, that highway funding is in seriously short supply.

Coloradans, to their credit, are pragmatists when it comes to government spending. The Ref C model, in which a broad coalition pitched specific spending needs, appealed to that sensible nature once and should be pursued again.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

 

http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_26892088/look-ref-cs-success-colorados-fiscal-future

Oct 20

GUEST COLUMN: Ballot Question 1B: A dishonest tax increase

By Jeff CrankPublished: October 20, 2014

El Paso County Ballot question 1B is nothing more than a dishonest attempt to fool voters. Its shameful deception rises to the level of the misleading term-limits language of a few years ago. If you remember the term limits language that implied that a “yes” vote “limited” terms when it actually extended them, then question 1B this year might ring a bell. 1B imposes a tax of $92.40 per year on the average household in El Paso County for the next 20 years and beyond. That is a minimum tax increase of $1,848 per property and likely much higher. However, you wouldn’t know these facts just by reading the ballot language.

Pretty harsh to say it is deceptive, but the facts leave little doubt. First, the language calls the tax a “fee.” Why? If they called it a tax, the Colorado Constitution would require the ballot language to start out by saying “shall taxes be increased by $39,275,650 for 2016 and each year after for 20 years.” By cleverly calling the tax a fee, they can now start the language with “Are you in favor of funding emergency needs caused by flooding.” It was worded this way to enhance the ability to get it passed but it is nothing more than a way to trick you into believing that the money coming out of your pocket is a fee and not a tax. After all, it is on your property tax bill.

The sleight of hand continues. Rather than being honest about how much you’re going to pay each year, they broke down the amount per month. They could have said that it would cost the average homeowner $1,848 over the next 20 years. Instead, they broke down the amount by month – to $7.70 per month. Why not break it down to the day, hour or second? By the way, if you do the math, it is just over a penny per hour tax increase.

Question 1B also creates a government bureaucracy and then exempts it from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights provisions of the Colorado Constitution.

In other words, it creates a bureaucracy and then allows that bureaucracy to vote to extend the tax (that they call a fee) without going to the citizens for a vote of the people.

As Mayor Steve Bach, who strongly opposes 1B, stated, “the new $92.40 stormwater fee is about the same amount the average residential property owner now pays for all city services combined.” That’s right, you’ll pay as much property tax for stormwater as you do for police, fire, snow removal, street repair, parks, arts, etc. Imagine this new unaccountable bureaucracy getting as much property tax as the city of Colorado Springs, never having to face an election and having the ability to increase ?the tax at their whim and without voter approval.

If this tax increase of $785 million over 20 years weren’t offensive enough, the audacity of the language should convince any citizen to vote “no.” The drafters of the language trying to pull the wool over voters eyes by calling a tax a “fee”; reducing the yearly tax amount to make it appear smaller; and thumbing their nose at the voters by taking away the right to vote on tax increases make this as deceptive and misleading as any ballot language we’ve ever seen.

Our stormwater problem is real and it should be addressed, but Question 1B is not the answer. I hope you’ll join Mayor Bach, myself and many other community leaders in voting “no.”

Jeff Crank is a talk show host on AM 740 KVOR and the president of Aegis Strategic, LLC.

http://gazette.com/guest-column-ballot-question-1b-a-dishonest-tax-increase/article/1539836

Sep 27

Democracy Requires a Patriotic Education

The Athenians knew it. Jefferson knew it. Somehow we have forgotten: Civic devotion, instilled at school, is essential to a good society.

What is an education for? It is a question seldom investigated thoroughly. The ancient philosophers had little doubt: They lived in a city-state whose success and very existence depended on the willingness of citizens to overcome the human tendency to seek their individual, self-interested goals and to make the sacrifices needed for the community’s well-being. Their idea of education, therefore, was moral and civic, not merely instrumental. They reasoned that if a state or community is to be good, its citizens must be good, so they aimed at an education that would produce virtuous people and good citizens.

Some two thousand years later, from the 16th through the 18th centuries, a different group of philosophers in Italy, England and France introduced a powerful new idea. Their world was dominated by ambitious princes and kings who were rapidly asserting ever greater authority over the lives of their people and trampling on the traditional expectations of individuals and communities. In the philosophers’ view, every human being was naturally endowed with three essential rights: to defend his life, liberty and lawfully acquired property.

The responsibility of the state, therefore, was limited and largely negative: to protect the people from external enemies and not to interfere with the rights of individual citizens. Suspicious of the claims of church and state to inculcate virtue as mere devices to serve the selfish interests of their rulers, most philosophers of the Enlightenment believed that moral and civic instruction was not the business of the state.

Among our country’s founders, none was a more devoted son of the Enlightenment than Thomas Jefferson, yet as he considered the needs of the new democratic republic he had helped to establish, he came to very different conclusions. Like the ancient philosophers, Jefferson regarded education as essential to the establishment and maintenance of a good polity— Plato, in “The Republic,” spends many pages on the nature of the citizens’ education, as does Aristotle in “Politics.” Jefferson regarded a proper educational system as so important that in the epitaph he wrote for himself, he did not mention that he had twice been elected president of the United States but proudly recorded that he was the “Father of the University of Virginia.”

Jefferson was convinced that there needed to be an education for all citizens if they and their new kind of popular government were to flourish. He understood that schools must provide “to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business; to enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing.”

For Jefferson, though, the most important goals of education were civic and moral. In his “Preamble to the 1779 Virginia Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” he addresses the need for all students to have a political education through the study of the “forms of government,” political history and foreign affairs. This was not meant to be a “value free” exercise; on the contrary, its purpose was to communicate the special virtues of republican representative democracy, the dangers that threatened it, and the responsibility of its citizens to esteem and protect it. This education was to be a common experience for all citizens, rich and poor, for every one of them had natural rights and powers, and every one had to understand and esteem the institutions, laws and traditions of his country if it was to succeed.

It is striking to notice the similarity between Jefferson’s ideas and those of a leader of the last great democracy prior to Jefferson’s fledgling democracy. In 431 B.C., Pericles of Athens described the character of the great democratic society he wished for his community: A city “governed by the many, not the few,” where in the “matter of public honors each man is preferred not on the basis of his class but of his good reputation and merit. No one, moreover, if he has it in him to do some good for the city, is barred because of poverty or humble origins.”

Both great democratic leaders knew that democracy, properly understood, requires a careful balance between the political and constitutional rights of the individual, where absolute equality is the only acceptable principle, and the other aspects of life, where equality of opportunity and reward on the basis of merit are appropriate. They also agreed on the need for individuals to limit their desires and even to curtail their own rights, when necessary, to make sacrifices in the service of the community without whose protection those rights could not exist. In short, democracy and patriotism were inseparable.

These values have not disappeared, but in our own time they have been severely challenged. With the shock of the 9/11 terror attacks, most Americans reacted by clearly and powerfully supporting their government’s determination to use military force to stop such attacks and to prevent future ones. Most Americans also expressed a new unity, an explicit patriotism and love of their country not seen among us for a very long time.

That is not what we saw and heard from the faculties on most elite campuses in the country, and certainly not from the overwhelming majority of people designated as “intellectuals” who spoke up in public. They offered any and all explanations, so long as they indicated that the attackers were really victims, that the fault really rested with the United States.

As most of us have come to know too well, the terrorists of al Qaeda and other jihadists regard America as “the great Satan” and hate the U.S. not only because its power stands in the way of the achievement of their Islamist vision, but also because its free, open, democratic, tolerant, liberal and prosperous society is a powerful competitor for the allegiance of millions of Muslims around the world. No change of American policy, no retreat from the world, no repentance or increase of modesty can change these things.

Yet many members of the intelligentsia decried the outburst of patriotism that greeted the new assault on America. The critics were exemplified by author Katha Pollitt, who wrote in the Oct. 1, 2001, edition of the Nation about her daughter wanting to fly the American flag outside their window after 9/11. “Definitely not,” Ms. Pollitt replied. “The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war.”

Such ideas still have a wide currency, reflecting a serious flaw in American education that should especially concern those of us who take some part in it. The encouragement of patriotism is no longer a part of our public educational system, and the cost of that omission has made itself felt. This would have alarmed and dismayed the founders of our country.

Jefferson meant American education to produce a necessary patriotism. Democracy—of all political systems, because it depends on the participation of its citizens in their own government and because it depends on their own free will to risk their lives in its defense—stands in the greatest need of an education that produces patriotism.

I recognize that I have said something shocking. The past half-century has seen a sharp turn away from what had been traditional attitudes toward the purposes and functions of education. Our schools have retreated from the idea of moral education, except for some attempts at what is called “values clarification,” which is generally a cloak for moral relativism verging on nihilism of the sort that asserts that whatever feels good is good.

Even more vigorously have the schools fled from the idea of encouraging patriotism. In the intellectual climate of our time, the very suggestion brings contemptuous sneers or outrage, depending on the listener’s mood. There is no end of quoting Samuel Johnson’s famous remark that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but no recollection of Boswell’s explanation that Johnson “did not mean a real and generous love for our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest.”

Many have been the attacks on patriotism for intolerance, arrogance and bellicosity, but that is to equate it with its bloated distortion, chauvinism. My favorite dictionary defines the latter as “militant and boastful devotion to and glorification of one’s country,” but defines a patriot as “one who loves, supports, and defends his country.”

That does not require us to denigrate or attack any other country, nor does it require us to admire our own uncritically. But just as an individual must have an appropriate love of himself if he is to perform well, an appropriate love of his family if he and it are to prosper, so, too, must he love his country if it is to survive. Neither family nor nation can flourish without love, support and defense, so that an individual who has benefited from those institutions not only serves his self-interest but also has a moral responsibility to give them his support.

Thus are assaults on patriotism failures of character. They are made by privileged people who enjoy the full benefits offered by the country they deride and detest, but they lack the basic decency to pay it the allegiance and respect that honor demands. But honor, of course, is also an object of their derision.

Every country requires a high degree of cooperation and unity among its citizens if it is to achieve the internal harmony that every good society requires. Most countries have relied on the common ancestry and traditions of their people as the basis of their unity, but the United States can rely on no such commonality. We are an enormously diverse and varied people, almost all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. The great strengths provided by this diversity are matched by great dangers. We are always vulnerable to divisions among us that can be exploited to set one group against another and destroy the unity and harmony that have allowed us to flourish.

We live in a time when civic devotion has been undermined and national unity is under attack. The idea of a common American culture, enriched by the diverse elements that compose it but available equally to all, is under assault, and attempts are made to replace it with narrower and politically divisive programs that are certain to set one group of Americans against another.

The answer to these problems and our only hope for the future must lie in education, which philosophers have rightly put at the center of the consideration of justice and the good society. We look to education to solve the pressing current problems of our economic and technological competition with other nations, but we must not neglect the inescapable political, and ethical, effects of education.

We in the academic community have too often engaged in miseducation. If we encourage separatism, we will get separation and the terrible conflict in society it will bring. If we encourage rampant individualism to trample on the need for a community and common citizenship, if we ignore civic education, the forging of a single people, the building of a legitimate patriotism, we will have selfish individuals, heedless of the needs of others, the war of all against all, the reluctance to work toward the common good and to defend our country when defense is needed.

The civic sense that America needs can come only from a common educational effort. In telling the story of the American political experience, we must insist on the honest search for truth; we must permit no comfortable self-deception or evasion, no seeking of scapegoats. The story of this country’s vision of a free, democratic republic and of its struggle to achieve it need not fear the most thorough examination and can proudly stand comparison with that of any other land.

In the long and deadly battle against those who hate Western ideals, and hate America in particular, we must be powerfully armed, morally as well as materially. To sustain us through the worst times we need courage and unity, and these must rest on a justified and informed patriotism.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/donald-kagan-democracy-requires-a-patriotic-education-1411770193?mod=trending_now_1

Apr 23

Like HAL 9000, TABOR’s programming overrides will of voters

We disagree.  TABOR is the will of the voters.

What do you expect from Carol Hedge’s party when they can’t tax, tax, and tax some more so they can spend, spend, spend until Daddy takes the T-Bird away…. TABOR only says you can’t raise taxes without the voters approving the tax.

OPINION

Like HAL 9000, TABOR’s programming overrides will of voters

By Carol Hedges
Guest Commentary

HAL 9000, the mellow-voiced but malevolent-minded computer from "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Thinkstock)

HAL 9000, the mellow-voiced but malevolent-minded computer from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” (Thinkstock)

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR as most Coloradans know it, is frequently acclaimed as carrying out the will of voters. But as recent events show, it’s doing the opposite.

Would Colorado voters really have approved TABOR in 1992 if they had known it could prevent their communities from accepting state emergency funds after natural disasters like wildfires and floods? Would they have voted for TABOR if they’d known that it could unexpectedly cut taxes on marijuana that voters had overwhelmingly approved in two elections?

Rather than being a tool used to express the people’s will, TABOR works more like a computer with a mind of its own that carries out its preprogrammed mission automatically, oblivious to voters and to their elected officials.

We now have a new political structure – the HAL 9000 form of governance, modeled after the mellow-voiced but malevolent-minded computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Many Coloradans know TABOR mandates tax elections. But it does so much more. Continue reading

Apr 03

Guest Commentary: Double Down and Defend TABOR

Dustin ZvonekBy 

There’s good news and bad news for Coloradans as the annual state budget battle looms.

The good news, if you tend to focus on the revenue side of the ledger, is that the state is relatively flush with cash at the moment.

This helps explain the extra spring in the step one notices in legislators, lobbyists and special interests swarming the capitol, as they imagine all the wonderful things they can do with that windfall.

But this can also be bad news if you tend (as I do) to take the taxpayer’s point of view, since the resulting feeding frenzy could leave little thought to socking-away savings or returning a dividend to taxpayers as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

You must remember TABOR, approved by voters back in the early 1990s? It’s been an invaluable ally to the state’s bill-payers ever since, which also makes it the bane of politicians and spending interests, who deeply resent the restraints it imposes on their ability to tax and spend at will.

Every budget season the debate stirs anew over whether TABOR has been good or bad for the state.  And this year that debate has taken on a new urgency for a number of reasons. Continue reading