GOP: Freeze to be 2010 election issue

The fight over the mill-levy freeze could foreshadow the tack Republicans will take in the 2010 gubernatorial election, a move that a spokesman for Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter said inspires no great worry.

The freeze amounts to a “massive property-tax increase” for which Ritter will be accountable, said Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

The battle over the freeze was “about students and schools and families,” Ritter spokesman
Evan Dreyer said. “This isn’t about politics.”

A main bone of contention in the battle was whether the freeze allowed the state to raise taxes without going to the voters.

“The only elections this is about are the 174 elections that have occurred over the past 10 to 15 years where local voters said ‘yes’ to keeping local dollars in their local schools,” Dreyer said.

Opponents have maintained that the change in state law that froze school district mill levies amounted to tax increases without voter approval, as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

“It is amazing that Bill Ritter did not have the guts to come to the people” for a tax vote, Wadhams said. “You know why? Because he knew he would lose. He’s afraid of the people’s judgment.”

Ritter was on the correct side, Dreyer said, adding, “We’ll fight that fight every day of the week, and in this case, the court reaffirmed that it was the right way to fight the fight.”

Republicans, many of whom had supported a similar proposal in 2004, said the 6–1 Supreme Court vote highlights the Democratic bent of the state high court. The lone opposing vote on the court was that of Allison Eid, who was appointed by Ritter’s Republican predecessor, Bill Owens.

All the other justices were appointed in Democrat administrations.

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, called the state’s supreme court the “most partisan court in the land.”

Penry himself was indulging in a “partisan shot,” Dreyer said. “Instead of spreading fear, he ought to be coming up with new ideas to lead this state forward like Gov. Ritter and other responsible leaders are doing.”

The Republican-dominated Mesa County Commission, which sued the state in 2007 after the mill-levy freeze was signed into law, never should have jumped into the fight, said Martelle Daniels, chairwoman of the Mesa County Democrats.

“It is unfortunate that local elected officials expended our resources in Mesa County to erode the quality of education in this great state,” Daniels said.


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