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Without Republican Support, Car Fee Hike One Too Many for Ritter March 5, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Colorado Springs, Property tax increase, statewide.
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This morning the Denver Post reports that Gov. Bill Ritter is dropping the “hot potato” that would have hit all Colorado families with another $100 in vehicle registration fees. Of course, it’s important to note that it was Ritter who took the potato out of the oven after it had been thoroughly cooked by his blue ribbon commission.

Seems the governor was unable to get a single Republican in the legislature to sign on to “the bait and switch con game.” Kudos to the Republicans for showing some taxpayer-friendly backbone on this one. Meanwhile, the fact that Ritter is unwilling to push his fee hike forward without a Republican co-sponsor shows just how scared Democratic leaders are of being recognized as the party of tax increases.

It’s good to see another fiscally irresponsible proposal get shelved. Yet while the vehicle registration fee hot potato has rolled away for now, the property tax hike millstone is still slung securely around the shoulders of Ritter and his fellow Democrats in the state legislature.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

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Date Set for Tax Hike Showdown February 11, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, TABOR.
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Face the State has the latest on the court case requesting a vote of the people on Gov. Bill Ritter’s statewide property tax increase:

The State Board of Education, claiming that CDE is the wrong agency to be targeted, has asked the court to be removed as a defendant. Meanwhile, Ritter has sought to intervene as defendant. A Denver District Court hearing has been set for May 5.

State Board of Education member Bob Schaffer, R-Fort Collins, believes Ritter has a lot at stake in the courts’ pending decision, having approved a property tax hike over the objections of the state’s attorney general.

“He has a clear interest in proving the attorney general wrong,” said Schaffer. “While the massive tax increase bill was passing, the legislature and governor understood that they were likely in violation of the law and the constitution.”

I know, I know. The money from the property tax increase is supposed to be “for the children.” Clearly, since I want to honor the state constitution and have the people of Colorado vote first, this makes me very cold and heartless person. (more…)

“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.

Property Tax Revenue Estimate More Than Doubles January 9, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, Referendum C, TABOR.
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From the Denver Post today comes staggering, but not altogether surprising, news:

Gov. Bill Ritter’s property-tax freeze will generate an estimated $2 billion more over 10 years than lawmakers were expecting when they approved it eight months ago, according to the latest calculations.

The revenue leap fired up Republican lawmakers — who were already calling the freeze an “illegal tax hike” — as the legislature convenes today for its 2008 session.

The freeze, which prevents local property taxes for schools from dropping, is now projected to result in nearly $3.8 billion in state money by 2017. That’s more than double the $1.74 billion estimated when lawmakers passed the governor’s proposal in May. [Emphasis added]

Depending on which school district your home or business inhabits, this means even twice the pain for your wallet than previously estimated. Sounds like a rerun of the Referendum C story.

We can’t forget that it is Gov. Bill Ritter and the Democratic Party who own this unconstitutional proposal (i.e., they should have asked the voters first!). They’ve tried dodging the argument and playing dumb. But all lawmakers and public officials need to be kept accountable to the taxpayers they represent.

Cross posted at Ritter Watch

Ritter Transportation Panel Calls for More Taxes January 7, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor.
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Another panel commissioned by Gov. Bill Ritter, another set of recommended tax increases:

Governor Bill Ritter’s 32-member blue-ribbon panel is recommending a $100 average increase in vehicle registration fees as part of its $1.5 billion plan to pay for much-needed transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements.The road funding proposals include:

  • Increase vehicle registration fees by $100 on average.
  • Raise gas tax by 13 cents a gallon.
  • Icrease [sic] the fee on hotel rooms and car rentals to $6 a day.
  • Increasing the state sales tax by 0.35 percent.
  • Increase severance tax by 1.7 percent.

This is starting to sound like a tired theme. I don’t know about your middle-class family, but all these proposals alone would take a significant chunk out of my household budget. Is this what Coloradans voted for when they elected Ritter to be governor in 2006?

Cross posted at Ritter Watch

Elect a Liberal, Pay the Piper December 22, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Colorado Governor.
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In what might be a prophetic headline, the Greeley Tribune informs its readers “Tax hike: It might be more about what to tax, not whether to tax.”

Gov. Bill Ritter has indicated he’d support one tax increase proposal on the 2008 ballot, wanting to avoid cluttering voters’ minds during a presidential election. It’s also possible that there won’t be any tax proposal at all, but given the ambitious ideas that Ritter, legislative Democrats and even some Republicans have for the state, such a referred measure looks pretty likely.

Selling Gold Watches in Colorado November 24, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Colorado Governor, Colorado Legislature.
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Holy Cow!  Some fool invited me to blog here, too.

“Gold watching” is an old tradition among those who allocate government funds.  It is a term for putting something that the taxpayer or tax consumer really wants below the funding line as a means of getting as many programs with less support as possible funded (above the line).

Anyone who has observed Colorado politicians in the past few years has seen gold watching being used against the taxpayer’s interest in the most classic way.  Ref C was supposed to be a timeout from TABOR to solve three problems.  Borrowing from a Mark Hillman – Amy Oliver study:

Voters were assured by Ref C proponents that K-12 education, colleges and universities, and health care would split the lion’s share of the resources if the measure passed…

However, a closer look at the state budget shows that the supposed beneficiaries have not benefited nearly as much as the  remainder of the state budget.  Since the 2005-06 budget, passed prior to Ref C, general fund spending has increased by $1 billion, or 16.1 percent. Spending on Ref C “targets”—K-12, higher ed and health care—has grown by just 11.9 percent, or $557 million. Meanwhile, the remainder of the general fund, which wasn’t targeted for a Ref C infusion, has grown by 28.7 percent, or $446 million.

Now that Bill Ritter and his band of merry taxaholics control the legislature, they have conveniently forgotten their promises to the public.  They know that the public wants more money spent on higher education, so they will ask for another, targeted tax increase, with the money to come out of individual taxpayer’s pockets.  They think that the public can be tricked into paying for the same gold watch (higher education) two or three times while they siphon huge sums for other less popular spending projects.

Another gold watch tactic is to use an unpopular tax source to fund less popular programs.  Sin taxes are traditional sources of revenue.  No non-smoker  likes smokers, and the more it costs to smoke, a voter might think, the fewer smokers there might be. 

It is very likely that the next “sin” tax target will be the oil and gas industry, specifically, severance taxes.  With Oil hovering around $100 a barrel and Natural Gas that is like to hit $10 per thousand, what voter wouldn’t be willing to see the state take some of that money and use it for … the voter will hardly care.

The Republicans have tried to head them off at the plateau by proposing that severance taxes go toward funding higher education.  This ploy recognizes two facts 1) higher severance taxes are likely to be approved by the voters and 2) the voters want a good higher ed program.  If the Republicans can direct that fire-hose of new government funding into higher ed, they might, just possibly, be able to slow the growth of government in other areas.

The Democrats are having none of this because it destroys their gold watch plans.  Care to bet that the four month delay in approving drilling on the Roan Plateau that Ken Salazar negotiated with BLM by holding a political appointee hostage was more about giving Democrats time to figure out how to use the severance taxes and still be able to gold watch education than it was about saving the plateau?

Since this isn’t my blog, (he he) I’ll make a rash prediction:  Before Bill Ritter leaves office, he will find a way to remove his objections to drilling on the Roan Plateau as long as the windfall (more like avalanche) in new money goes to his own projects, none of which will be higher education.  Taxpayers will be asked to fund Higher Ed by digging deeper into their own pockets – again!

Note:  This is the first time I’ve used this blogging software, so I have no idea about what I will get or if I can edit it.  Have patience.

I am, as always, a watcher, though here, I might be “awatcher”