No rest for politically weary, 
the tax-hike debate starts now

It’s only been a little more than half a year since our fair swing state was inundated with an all-consuming deluge of campaign activity for and against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

If it seems like the presidential election was a lifetime ago, that’s because it has been wall-to-wall, nonstop politics in Colorado just about every day since.

As I noted last week, the victors of the 2012 election in Colorado have been zipping around like a throng of ADHD-crazed bees in feverish quest to rewrite the rules of what it means to be Colorado.

Even for political junkies like me, the whole thing has been exhausting to watch. And apparently not even three-day holiday weekends are off limits any longer.

Not this year at least. Move over baseball, mom and apple pie.

This year Memorial Day has been unofficially designated by our state’s chief executive as a time for statewide argumentation about the propriety of the death penalty.

Maybe Gov. John Hickenlooper decided to stay the death sentence of mass murderer Nathan Dunlap close to the Memorial Day weekend because he was hoping fewer people would notice.

The timing of the announcement, like the mind-numbingly arrogant announcement itself, stinks.

If you were hoping that Democrats in Denver were planning to take a little time for themselves — between pushing new gun laws and coddling criminals, wouldn’t you think these people would vacation? — keep hoping.

The debate about whether or not Colorado should increase its income tax unofficially started earlier this week, too, when the proponents of the big tax hike for schools began rolling out the predictable tripe about how underfunded our schools are and how good for the economy a massive tax increase would be.

A Denver Post column this week — written by a prominent, former Republican legislator, who later became Bill Ritter’s chief economic developer Don Marostica —was the opening salvo of this fall’s great big political fight over income taxes.

“For Colorado to compete in today’s global economy — and tomorrow’s — we need to invest in an education system that is second to none. And we need to come up with the best way to pay for it,” Marostica wrote.

“As an economic development expert, I am not convinced that Colorado’s current single-rate tax structure is helping our economy. Instead, businesses and middle-class Coloradans alike would be better off with a two-step income tax to provide the resources for top teachers and great facilities.”

Ergo, what Colorado needs now is a big tax increase to spur our competitiveness.

Let the debate begin! Sigh.

Between now and the election this coming November, you’ll hear a lot more of the same from those backing the education funding plan, which would increase the state’s income tax from its current level of 4.63 percent to somewhere near 5.3 percent.

But what the supporters won’t tell you is that, thanks to a statewide measure passed in 2000, education funding has aggressively increased year over year every year for a decade, except for two years during the recession.

They won’t tell you that between 2002 and 2012, K-12 funding increased from $4.1 billion to $5.3 billion.

They won’t tell you that in 2008, then-Gov. Bill Ritter implemented a back-door property tax increase (the so-called mill levy freeze) to increase education funding by $100 million.

They won’t tell you that in 2010 the same Democratic governor passed the so-called dirty dozen business tax increases to push hundreds of millions more in schools.

They won’t tell you that many of the state’s largest districts passed big local tax hikes of their own just last year.

So there you have it. Another day, another contentious debate about a controversial proposal to move our state leftward.

There was a time when holidays like Memorial Day were carved out as harbors of respite from the tawdry interferences of politics. But not this year.

Move over mom, apple pie and JUCO baseball. This year Memorial Day means debates about the death penalty and hefty tax hikes.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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