Grover Norquist: Republicans produce nationally, but in Colorado they betray taxpayers locally

by Grover Norquist | 

Some Republican state legislators remind us that no one’s life is a complete waste — some simply serve as bad examples. One of those bad examples can be found in Colorado. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

Congress just proved an amazing thing happens when Republicans remember to govern as Reagan Republicans.

The most substantial tax overhaul since the Reagan years has sparked our economy. Republicans in Congress gathered the courage to face down the pro-tax media, special interests, and the opposition of every single Democrat in Congress to help families keep more of what they earn. Already tax reform has resulted in at least 285 companies announcing wage increases, bonuses, and higher 401(k) matches for 3 million workers. Utility companies are reducing rates in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The decade-long economic malaise of the Obama years is finally in the rearview mirror. Apple is bringing more than a quarter-trillion dollars back to the U.S. Amgen, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson are following suit. Companies like Walmart are giving out raises. Companies like Starbucks are giving employee bonuses.

And all Republicans had to do is what they promised to do: Get out of the way and leave us alone. Competent Republican state caucuses are following suit in states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. But not all Republicans at the state level are following the tried and true path of successful government: less.

Some Republican state legislators remind us that no one’s life is a complete waste — some simply serve as bad examples. One of those bad examples can be found in Colorado.

This is disappointing and surprising, as Colorado is home to the best tax and expenditure limitation in the country, called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. TABOR provides an exoskeleton for those elected officials that lack an endoskeleton (backbone). It should be easiest to fight taxes in Colorado.

TABOR puts taxpayers in charge of tax and debt increases. Any government in Colorado can jack up taxes as high as they like, and it’s all fine. All they have to do is ask first by putting the question on the ballot.

The word you’re looking for is “consent.” Colorado has a higher level of consent over government growth put right in their state constitution. Consent is good. Harvey Weinstein is bad.

But weak politicians don’t like asking voters if they want higher taxes because they know the answer is going to be “no.” So Colorado lawmakers found ways around asking for consent. They devised a Clintonesque way to change the meaning of simple words. They renamed taxes as “fees,” and label debt as “certificates of participation.” Clever, huh?

For years Democrats in the Colorado legislature have been drooling over a scheme to get around TABOR by raising a tax on Coloradans’ hospital stays and calling it a “fee.” Fortunately, until now the Republican-controlled State Senate has consistently stood up for taxpayers and blocked the Democrat-controlled State House of Representatives from raising taxes and debt without consent.

But in the last legislative session, Democrats found their pro-tax collaborators inside the Republican Senate caucus. Spearheaded by Senate President Kevin Grantham (a bad Republican) and the Senate Majority Leader Jerry Sonnenberg (another bad Republican), who sponsored the effort, they successfully raised taxes by $600 million a year and raised debt by $2 billion.

That alone is a cardinal fiscal sin, but blowing a hole through TABOR by refusing to bring it to a public vote makes this the largest Republican betrayal in Colorado political history.

In the shadow of Republicans slashing taxes in Washington, a full half of the Colorado Republican caucus voted for this massive tax hike and use of legalese to hide it from voters.

Of course, many of these unfaithful Republicans have their sights set on higher office. Jerry Sonnenberg wants to become Senate president. Owen Hill is running for U.S. Congress to bring his pro-tax leadership to Washington. Dan Thurlow is running for State Senate. And Polly Lawrence is running for Colorado State Treasurer.

We can only hope that some Republicans on the state level learn to actually fight for taxpayers — just like they campaigned on, and just like their partisan counterparts on the federal level have done. And who could have imagined we’d ever be saying something like that?

Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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