Budget debate rhetoric: Eliminating tax exemptions versus raising taxes

The debate went on in the House chamber for days, bleeding over to Monday from Friday, amounting to more than 30 hours of wrangling over eight bills designed to eliminate tax breaks granted to Colorado businesses. “Eliminate tax breaks,” anyway, is the language the Denver Post settled upon for its headline on the bills. Republicans have been calling the proposals simply tax increases. Which is it?

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If you’ve never paid taxes and all of the sudden you have to pay taxes, that’s a tax increase.

But if you’ve never paid taxes, ever, and you lean upon services provided by the state and it’s a deep recession and the state budget is in the red, why do you feel entitled to continue to not pay taxes?

The Post’s Tim Hoover at the Post on the debate:

“We’re asking big business to pay their fair share so that we don’t have to keep balancing the budget on the backs of teachers, police officers and firefighters, senior citizens and the neediest who depend on our safety net,” said House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver. “It’s only been the GOP and their special-interest cronies who have been complaining because we’re rolling back corporate welfare and special-interest tax loopholes.”

But Republicans said the bills would just increase taxes on businesses, many of them small, that provide jobs to ordinary Coloradans.

“The Democrats’ rush to tax the citizens and businesses, who make up the backbone of Colorado’s economy, came full-circle this morning,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker. “After hours of testimony from business owners and citizens who oppose these tax increases, Democrats still chose to ignore that message and take them one step closer to reality.”

The eight bills are expected to generate as much $64 million for the 2010-11 budget year that begins in July. If three more bills make it in the package, that total could increase to as much as $140 million.

The bills come from Gov. Bill Ritter’s proposal to eliminate or suspend 13 tax exemptions and credits.

Hoover writes that the debate is throwing a spotlight on Democratic lawmakers in seats likely to be closely contested this year, many of them wary to vote with their caucus and eliminate the exemptions. Which of the phrases are those lawmakers using to refer to the bills? The eight bills passed the House and have moved on to the Senate. The language is bound to be even more starkly contrasting.

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