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“Great Caesar’s Ghost!”: Exposing Knee-Jerk Tax Increases “For the Children” January 24, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, TABOR.
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On the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel site, Rick Wagner takes a club to the constant screams of interest groups for more money to fund K-12 education. Most amusing was this hypothetical dialogue and subsequent comment:

Government: “There’s a crisis in education. Something must be done immediately! The children’s achievement level is shocking. All that can be known with certainty is that it has nothing to do with my prior policies and the only solution is more money.”

Taxpayer: “Is that really the solution? Maybe we should look at our methods first.”

Government: “Great Caesar’s Ghost man! There is no time for that. We need money now! Why do you hate children?”

When we pursue questions about why achievement is so lacking, we are usually rewarded with a discussion having something to do with Bush, TABOR, Reagan, evil conservatives and tax cuts for the wealthy.

The actual problem in Colorado is that we have a system under the disastrous Amendment 23 that requires increased education funding no matter what the result. How many successful systems exist that are premised on a continuous increase in resources unrestricted by results?

It’s an important reminder that lawmakers and bureaucrats have an easier time accessing the taxpayer’s pocketbook when they frame the issue in the interest of schools and children. It worked for Amendment 23. More recently, Gov. Ritter did just that with his statewide property tax increase, but didn’t even bother to ask the voters as the state constitution requires.

Of course, our schools need some amount of resources to function well. But seldom if ever do you see any serious ideas about restructuring the education system to ensure money is spent with a high level of efficiency. The results are there to show that spending more has very little or no relationship with academic performance or growth.

Yet as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, you can expect cries for more money based on some calculation that compares our state to the national average of education spending in some area or another. Is the national average of educational performance better than in Colorado? Not exactly. Well, then, somebody has got some explaining to do.

Colorado spends more than $9,000 per student in our K-12 public schools. Is the money really being spent as wisely as it could be, if we just had the political will to fix the system? The sad answer is it takes less political will to cajole a little more money from each of us than to do the hard work of reform.

“Constitutional conundrum” = “Colorado taxpayers, beware!” January 2, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Referendum C, TABOR.
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Featured in today’s Rocky Mountain News under the header “Constitutional conundrum” is a story highlighting lawmakers’ efforts to simplify the Colorado state constitution. And when I say “simplify,” I mean gut the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Or as new State Rep. Doug Bruce colorfully put it:

“They talk about fixing the system the way a vet would fix your pet,” the Colorado Springs Republican said. “They want to emasculate it.”

We’re a little more than two years past the passage of the permanent tax increase known as Referendum C (latest estimated price tag = $10 billion). In 2005 state officials and tax-consuming interest groups crossed the state preaching their jeremiads of doom and gloom if voters should reject Ref C. They didn’t tell us that a narrow victory for Ref C generating more than twice the predicted revenue, would also be a prescription for a crisis. But here they go again:

The price of doing nothing today could be that five years from now, the University of Colorado will be privatized, elementary school students will be using old textbooks and the plan to reform health care will have lost momentum, [Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver] said. “People will say the General Assembly saw this coming in 2008 and didn’t do anything about it.”

The next paragraph is perplexing, in light of the article’s content:

Most legislators agree the constitution’s biggest problem is the number of financial provisions that interest groups have convinced voters and lawmakers to approve.

Most of the article is focused on assailing the taxpayer-friendly TABOR, while giving the budget-busting Amendment 23 – mandating spending increases at the behest of an interest-group lobby – mere passing attention. That sets the stage for state Democrat leaders to inject the tired solution of another tax increase to “solve” the alleged problem:

Most agree there is no good way to revise the constitution. Lawmakers made the job harder for themselves when they passed a “single subject rule” for citizen initiatives and legislatively referred ballot measures, to stop wide-ranging initiatives such as TABOR from ever hitting the ballot again.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, has proposed asking voters to lift that rule. The exception would apply only to the constitution, and only for a set period of time. It would allow lawmakers to return to voters in a subsequent year with a fiscally revised constitution that they could vote up or down.

Groff backs that idea as a good first step. It would give lawmakers the opening they need to deal comprehensively with the internal fiscal conflicts of the constitution, he said. Then, two or three years from now, the legislature could think about putting “maybe a son or a cousin or a mother-in-law of Ref C” back on the ballot, he said.

Colorado taxpayers, beware: state officials have a three-year plan for you and your money.

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