By Mike McCune
America, as it was established, is a bastion of freedom is a world of heedless rulers over mindless sheep. But America is in trouble because the mindless sheep have allowed the heedless rulers far too much leeway recently. One example of the sheep taking a positive step is Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights Act or TABOR law.
Now, after years of politicians chipping away at TABOR with this fee, that duty, or some other money grab that was conveniently not called a “tax” because of TABOR and with the complicity of the court which refused to uphold the letter and intent of the law passed by the people who wanted no further taxation, the state is facing two amendments and one proposition that want to drastically alter the landscape. Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 are directed at TABOR and some of the ensuing , multi-layer taxation which came from the State House in an effort to avoid TABOR.
Start with Amendment 60. This proposed piece of legislation starts out fine but rapidly deteriorates into moronic levels. As proposed, 60 would halt the de-Brucing of property tax revenues (which should have never happened under TABOR in the first place) and would return them to their original taxation levels when TABOR was established. If the Amendment stopped there all would be well but we are a society who can’t leave well enough alone.
Part two of 60 requires government entities to pay property taxes which is a really bad idea because all it does is allow those pesky politicians to move taxes from a nice, well-intentioned entity like the library or school districts and put it into one of the social programs they are so fond of and which caused the tax shortfall problem in the first place. No, government entities were exempt for specific reasons which we have forgotten; namely each government agency needs its funding and it would diminish services if it had to pay tax which went to another agency.
The third part of 60 limits future property tax increases to 10 years and reduces by 50 percent school district mill levies with a state-run backfill for the shortfall. Both of these parts are counterproductive. Under the first part of the bill, you’ve rolled taxes back to where they were supposed to be and now you allow increases, without restraints for 10 year periods? No way people, stop the politicians in their tracks! As for having the state backfill school shortagess, that’s another bad idea. Put control of the local school districts back into the hands of the local residents keeping the state and federal governments as far away from your schools as humanly possible. We don’t need palaces to educate in but merely decent places for our children who want to learn to go to. These three proposals show we do not want the state people to have too much control but the Federal people are even more remote and cannot be controlled at all. Keep government out of our schools except as a civics example.
Amendment 61 prohibits all state government borrowing after 2010 without voter approval. My question to you is why allow politicians to borrow at all, particularly at the state, county, city or district level without voter approval? If there is a need for long-term borrowing, then a vote should be held where the people of that specific district approve the borrowing and repayment terms. This bill is dead-on accurate and should be enacted tomorrow if not yesterday. Then “We, the People” is not a catch phrase but a reality.
Proposition 101 is a mishmash of good intentions running smack-dab into reality. If you start fiddling with the income tax-rate for the state how can your state government function? They will have to make revenues up somewhere else, again, and again won’t label it a “tax” so the courts will let them get away with it. Let the government keep this bone.
As for tampering with the registration and dropping the tax rates and attendant fees; while those tax or fee areas have gotten way too high, we enjoy good roads and easy travel in Colorado. Doing away with this key source of revenue support for many necessary areas of government could mean the imposition of a permanent toll booth just off your property to correct the shortfall.
In reducing taxes and fees on telecommunication services, except for 911 services, the authors of this Proposition are stepping into the murky waters of further removing responsibility from a privilege and, whether the younger, uneducated generations would agree or not, all of our American privileges carry a burden of responsibility. Those taxes and fees provide another vital service by making the system generally accessible to all and not just those living in urban areas alone. Without those fees and taxes, most of America would still be without many conveniences it enjoys today. Those satellite-made-possible phone services were the result of some ingenuous, outside-the-box, American-only innovation. Paying a tax to sustain it is part of the privilege, like paying for a driver’s license.
In summation, while I approve some of Amendment 60, its language further reduces control at local levels and gives even more power to the State and its politicians and would therefore vote against it. Amendment 61 should be a slam-dunk shoo-in as it is only positive. Prop 101 leaves too many escape avenues for future circumvention of TABOR and that too I would regretfully vote against even though I agree with the sentiment behind the bill’s lowering income taxes.
The citizenry should not be dominated by the political machines yet the workings of government need some basic levels of solid funding. Where the trick comes into the process is when one side takes for granted the other. If you want the results of 60 and 101, vote for politicians who are fiscally conservative and have no social restructuring ambitions. In dabbling in social restructuring our politicians forgot their primary responsibility was for the good of the majority, not a select few, and have thus hamstrung everyone.
Mike McCune spent 16 years as a government tax auditor and then operated a consulting/accounting business for 14 years. For 11 years I wrote a biweekly opinion column for the local paper (1981-1992).