('76 Contributor) What could a Colorado family of four do with an additional $300 a month? Should taxpayers be able to keep more of their hard-earned money? Will that help create jobs and business? Do Colorado citizens deserve to have more money left over after deductions and taxes -- to spend, save, invest or give away? Do you?
[Editor: This post advocating the three tax measures is a counterpoint to Mark Hillman's recent post opposing them. Centennial Institute never takes an official position for or against ballot proposals, candidates for public office, or pending legislation.]
Opponents of Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 have flooded the media “infosphere” by raising $6,863,021 (how much from out of state?) as reported by the Secretary of State, with $102,418.76 left (as of the October 18, 2010 report). Wow. Not surprisingly, many contributions are taxpayer dollars fighting taxpayers. Check out “Opposition Funding” at www.COtaxreforms.com . See who contributed and how much. Then ponder “WHY?”
Who are these opponents, surprisingly many from out-of-state, who have spent in excess of $6.76 million for sinful excess of TV, radio, newspaper, road and yard signs, badges, bumper stickers, plus public-influencing strategies and expertise being expended?
It is the ephemeral opponent organization, Coloradans for Responsible Reform. Have they ever reformed anything, rather instead, obstructing citizen initiatives that seek to contain government growth, power, spending, debt and taxation? When there’s an issue they’re there; when not, they’re not.
1. The flip side of these issues provides great promise for Colorado’s people and future, in a custom-designed, long-range stimulus strategy for building Colorado’s true prosperity. It will help create more jobs, housing, businesses, product and service output; while ensuring a growing avalanche of revenues for Colorado governments, with concurrent diminishing need for them.
2. The opposition tells how passage of 60, 61, 101 will reduce Colorado governments funding by $4.4 billion, that’s $4,400 million. With five million population, that’s about $880 per capita, or almost $3,600 for a family of four. What can happen when that family has an additional $300 a month to spend, save, invest or give away? And taking into account the vagaries of replacing it, they have to earn some $400 a month to regain that amount after taxes.
3. Revisit some basic economics. Etch these four-words on the inside of your left eyelid, “Only people pay taxes”; the right eyelid, “Businesses pay no taxes.” All revenues, fees, taxes, etc., to finance jobs and functions in the public (government) sector come only from the private sector -- business, commerce, industry. Businesses collect required taxes in their prices of goods and services, and by law pay them to the various governments. A prosperous, burgeoning private sector will pour tons of funds into governments.
4. Speaking of Colorado governments, how many are there? Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs tallies 3,305 (http://dola.colorado.gov/dlg/local_governments/lgtypes.html , 10/23/10). With 2,860 governments in 2006 (Independence Institute Backgrounder IB-2007-F, August 2007, page 1), Colorado governments are growing an average rate of one additional government every four days. And they all demand a piece of the diminishing people tax pie. How much government and how many governments are enough?
5. Do those who believe in Colorado’s economic, business, governmental, constitutional and legal system forget they can get all the tax revenues they need? Protected by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, all they have to do is ask for it. Determine that incoming revenues are insufficient to provide the necessary services, make the case and take it to the voters for approval. Example, state gasoline taxes have not been increased since 1994. Is it possible, even probable such a public vote on a five-, ten- or more cent-increase would pass?
6. Do Coloradans already pay significant taxes? 2009 Economic Report of the President data show that per capita federal taxes for 2008 were $8,275; Colorado, $2,984 (from Colorado 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report), for a total of $11,259 taxes per capita -- federal, state-and-local taxes, direct and mostly indirect.
7. By way of comparison, in merry olde England, serfs (near-slaves?) paid one-third the fruits of their labor to the Manorial Lord for his protection and use of his land. Again, same 2009 ERP data, based on personal income, federal receipts were 20.2%, state, 16.1% for a total of 36.4% (total governments spending were 41.9% of personal income).
8. Government employment growth from 2002 to 2009 in Colorado was 9.1% compared to the private sector’s 7.3%. At the state level, total full time equivalent employees, FTEs, in seven years, grew 11.3% -- 6,561 -- 728 classified, state personnel system; 5,833 non-classified, Judicial, Legislative, Governor, Law, Education and Higher Education Departments. At the 2008 average annual Colorado FTE salary, benefits and perquisites of over $87,000, a million dollars annual State expenditure amounts to about 11.5 state employees.
9. Virtually all this 60,61,101 opposition fundraising, negative publicity and promotion is part of the continuing effort to emasculate, defang and destroy Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. How good has TABOR been? A study of the 10-years before TABOR and 10-years after convincingly makes the point.
10. For the 10-years before TABOR, Colorado all-government employment grew 21.1% (50,000), non-government employment 17.5% (198,000). For the 10-years after TABOR, all-government growth dropped to 20.0% (59,600); non-government growth more than doubled to 37.7% (526,400). (See “A Decade of TABOR,” Issue Paper No. 8-2003, page 7, http://old.i2i.org/articles/tabor2003.PDF ).
11. In 1992 Colorado’s Governor said if TABOR passed he would have to post signs at Colorado’s borders, “Colorado is Closed for Business.” A County Sheriff I debated told the audience if it passed he would have to don his uniform, let most of his deputies go, and let jailed persons back out on the street. TABOR passed by over 53% in 1992.
Did the signs go up? Did their dire predictions come to pass? Do the scare tactics sound familiar?
12. TABOR implementation began in 1993. In 1994 Colorado was judged to be the number one, best state in the nation, in business and economic performance. This was routinely reported in the “Development Report Card for the States,” published annually by the Washington DC-based, non-profit Corporation for Enterprise Development.
13. Colorado continued number one in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 -- six consecutive years. Could it be that as the establishment power structure continued to whittle away, dilute and destroy TABOR, its business and economic good began to go away.
14. Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 are a magnificent gift to the people and future of Colorado, a great and growing stimulus package that will reset Colorado government and get it back on track.
15. If you do not want continuing high unemployment, higher taxes, more governments, bigger government, that gets more expensive, expansive, wasteful, intrusive, invasive, powerful and controlling of Colorado citizens, voters and taxpayers: Vote FOR 60, 61 and 101
(Centennial Fellow) The Colorado debate over ballot measures 60, 61 and 101, set to pass or fail on Nov. 2, has been anything but illuminating. According to the propaganda, voters should:• Vote yes to punish government at all levels for more than $1 billion in higher taxes and fees enacted without a vote of the people by Gov. Ritter and statehouse Democrats.• Or vote no because "The Ugly 3" will trigger a "voter-approved recession" and put thousands of people out of work.Frankly, both of those arguments are overwrought. All three measures offer some policy changes that voters should like – offset by a monkey-wrench provision that makes each measure hard to swallow.
[Editor: This post opposing the three tax measures is countered by Fred Holden's subsequent post supporting them. Centennial Institute never takes an official position for or against ballot proposals, candidates for office, or pending legislation.]
Amendment 60 would allow citizens to petition any local government to reduce property taxes and require those elections to be held in November – not on some obscure date when few people vote.Then Amendment 60 adds a nonsensical provision to cut local property taxes that support local schools by 50 percent and, in the next breath, requires the state to magically to reimburse local schools for the lost funds.K-12 education already consumes 45 percent ($3.1 billion) of the state general fund budget, accounting for 62 percent of local schools' operating costs. Local property-owners pay the balance, another $2 billion, directly to their own school district.The state simply doesn't have that extra $1 billion hidden in a desk drawer. Moreover, the $1 billion pricetag would be larger than the total general fund spending on any other department, except health care.Amendment 61 would prohibit the state from borrowing money for any reason, even with voter approval. Currently, the state is prohibited from borrowing against general tax revenues, but may, with voter approval, issue bonds to be repaid from a specific source – such as a special tax approved by voters. Local governments and school districts could take on voter-approved debt only if it were financed for 10 years or less.For anyone who believes government should operate like a business, this mandates just the opposite. Imagine if a business couldn't open a new store unless it could pay cash for the entire cost. If home mortgage contracts were limited to 10 years, monthly payments would double. Interest savings are exaggerated because interest is simply the price paid to use a lender's money while immediately benefiting from the purchase.Amendment 61 would also pointlessly terminate the State Treasury's interest-free loan program that helps local school districts alleviate temporary cash flow shortages. State government has its problems, but this program isn't one of them.For those of us who believe the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is generally good policy, it's also alarming that 60 and 61 are amendments to TABOR. Saddling TABOR with these peculiarities is like hitching a plow to Secretariat.If Proposition 101 merely repealed the Democrats' vehicle "fee" increase ($165 million in 2010-11) or backdoor property tax increase ($155 million), that would be worth supporting. But Prop 101 goes much farther, indiscriminately whacking taxes and fees by $744 million in the first year and triple that over time.For comparison, state income and sales taxes generate about $7 billion a year; add all other revenues covered by TABOR and the total is $9.3 billion. So, Prop 101 would mandate in the very first year an 8 percent reduction – in a budget already squeezed by the recession.Want evidence that the state budget is relatively lean? Consider that even with the Democrats' fee and tax hikes, spending under TABOR actually fell by $600 million last year. From 2001 to 2010, state-level spending fell from $2,237 per capita to $2,211, adjusted for inflation. Since TABOR passed in 1992, Colorado's tax burden has fallen from 23rd highest to 34th.The best response to backdoor tax hikes passed by Democrats lawmakers and approved by liberals on the Supreme Court is to vote them out of office – not to throw three sticks of dynamite into state and local government.Mark Hillman served as Colorado state treasurer and senate majority leader. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
(Denver Post, Aug. 1) The other day in Starbucks I overheard Reagana, a personal trainer and Tea Party mom, debating with McDole, her CPA and a moderate Republican. “You can still support McInnis after everything we know about him? With Colorado on the brink, you’re telling me he’s the governor we need?”
Doggedly but without enthusiasm, McDole pointed out the GOP veteran’s experience as a legislator and congressman, his litany of endorsements, his feisty campaign style and fundraising prowess. As for plagiarism, heck, Joe Biden did it, Dr. King did it, and look where they are. Passing off that judge’s writing as his own – no big deal.
But Reagana said it came down to trust. Scott McInnis took $300,000 from a Muslim foundation for this glorified term paper. It looked to her like sharia sympathizers buying influence with a politician. Poor judgment for starters, and now with the stolen intellectual property, weak integrity as well. “He’s lost my vote.”
The CPA shrugged. His ballot was in the mail already, marked for McInnis. He figured if polling found Scott too damaged by press attacks, the Republican power-brokers would maneuver him off the ticket after the primary and put in Ken Buck or Jane Norton, whichever lost the Senate race. Besides, scoffed McDole, we can’t nominate Dan Maes – no one ever heard of him.
No one but a majority of GOP delegates, the trainer jabbed. Maes defeated Mac at the state assembly after a year of campaigning. How arrogant for the media and party insiders to talk as if no private citizen dares aspire to statewide office. Tell it to the late Gov. John Love. Bayh of Indiana and Blunt of Missouri, legacy boys barely 30, won governor with no credentials but daddy’s name. Businessman Maes has the tools and the ideas, argued Reagana, and anyway Colorado NEEDS an outsider.
McDole fretted about a letter from some Longmont woman in the July 18 Denver Post. “Maes wants to protect TABOR, buck the unions, thin the state payroll, encourage oil and gas exploration, and pass an Arizona-style immigration law. She has it all on tape.”
Reagana clapped with delight. Saw the letter, loved the letter, what’s not to like? Even if Scott could beat Hickenlooper, which he can’t (but neither will he quit the ticket), do you think for a minute he would do all those things, as wired into the cautious establishment as he is?
Our state needs a new broom to sweep clean, she said, because we really are at the brink. California may soon be in for the kind of bailout Greece got, and other states will follow. We’re not on the short list, but we’re not healthy either – huge annual deficits despite the Referendum C tax hike, and a time bomb in the state pension fund. Protecting TABOR is a must. So is cutting taxes.
The CPA jumped to his feet in exasperation. Was there going to be a scene? I looked away and pretended not to listen. “Don’t tell me you’re for those three awful ballot issues, 60, 61, and 101? Wiping out jobs, paralyzing services – please!”
Yes, said the trainer, because with so many governments headed for a fiscal coronary, this is heart-attack medicine we better swallow. One reaffirms the ban on state debt, part of Colorado’s constitution since 1876. Another rolls back Ritter’s illegal property tax increase. The third takes about 2 percent off government’s annual growth rate. Foolhardy NOT to pass them.
“Maes and the medicine – that’s where you come down?” McDole was incredulous. He had forgotten my long-ago campaign for governor, asking voters to support Andrews and the amendments. Roy Romer won easily, but the passage of term limits in 1990 and TABOR in 1992 has benefited our state ever since. As for 2010, who can say?
(Denver Post, May 2) “Son, you have become a man. Mom and I are so proud of your maturity. In turning 21 today and taking a bride tomorrow, you reach the age of emancipation. This is literally your time of being set free, entering upon self-determined adulthood. What a milestone.
“Because we care for you and your wife and children, we’ll stay involved as parents in a few small ways. We will provide a house for you, and cars as needed. We will supply you energy for all those. Of course we’ll always cover the medical bills for you and the kids. Costs of school and college will be on us as well. Plus an income floor. Pay a share of these things if you can, but don’t strain yourself. It’s our tribute to your independence.”
Independence, Dad? Who are you kidding? That’s a gilded cage. Any mother and father who coddled their grown children this way (some do, of course, to their sorrow) would be committing parental malpractice. Any son or daughter thus “cared for” should feel insulted, indentured, and infantilized.
But consider: The dependence we find so repugnant if indulged within the family is all around us politically, under paternalistic big government. Housing, heating, healing, food, fuel, lighting, leisure, teaching, transportation, and pocket money are ALL now provided, subsidized, or facilitated for many of us by the omnipotent State. And the trend line keeps rising, no matter which party is charge. We’re hooked.
To feed our habit, Americans will pay more in taxes this year than everything we spend for food, clothing, and shelter. And to meet the remaining cost of paternalism, we’ll borrow yet more from our grandkids. This year’s actual Tax Freedom Day, deficit included, isn’t until May 17. Obama’s spending orgy in 2009 and 2010 has pushed it later than at any time since World War II. Then we were fighting for survival. Now we’re just gorging for appetite.
Don’t worry, though. Those health care heroes, the Democrats, have the cure for our fiscal obesity: more calories. In honor of April 15, state Sen. Chris Romer warned that Colorado can’t hope to have a thriving economy “until we learn to raise our taxes.” That same week, US Sen. Michael Bennet claimed the Tea Party movement is “trafficking in a kind of nihilistic vision that says we don't have a responsibility to the next generation.” So now dependency is a duty?
Most Coloradans, whether their party is R or D or Tea, would snort in disgust if you gave them a Declaration of Dependence to sign. Statehood was only granted us, after all, on condition of upholding the Declaration of Independence. We pay it lipservice, picturing ourselves as “a free people” who honorably direct their own “lives and fortunes,” and resist despotism “with manly firmness.” Yet sadly, we’re more like a fatty seeing muscle in the mirror. The firm self-reliance of our forefathers has gone to flab.
The collectivist freebies we all depend on are scarcely imagined in the Colorado Constitution – and unauthorized in the United States Constitution. Immense unfunded liabilities for entitlements and pensions, state and federal alike, loom like Katrina headed for landfall. Yet the political establishment shrugs off the impending emergency. Democrats and Republicans, courts and media, labor and business have combined to weaken this state’s best protection, TABOR.
Citizens unwilling to declare their dependence have put on the ballot a TABOR rescue package. Amendment 60 restores our vote on property taxes. Amendment 61 restores our vote on debt. Proposition 101 cuts the tax on cars, phones, and income. Womb-to-tomb paternalism will suffocate our liberty and prosperity if we don’t bestir ourselves. Passing those three measures would be a start.