House ideological flare up on how best to help the poor

In pushing a bill aimed at easing tax burdens on low-income families, state Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Englewood, Friday said voting no on the bill amounted to a vote against the working poor, drawing a strong rebuke from Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.

“Do we care only for half the workers?” asked Kagan. “If you don’t pass this bill, you’re voting against the working poor, the people who work 16 hours a day– and have children in wedlock.”

Rep. Mike May, R-Parker
Rep. Mike May, R-Parker

That last bit was meant as a jab at Centennial GOP Rep. Spencer Swalm, who has been arguing this week that the best approach to alleviating poverty is to end out-of-wedlock births.

But May would not be cowed by Kagan.

“I was one of those people. I grew up dirt Irish poor. I understand what it is to be poor and I understand economic opportunity in America and how we can rise up and succeed in America. Anything that interferes with that opportunity I am against. That is what my no vote represents.”

House bill 1002 increases the number of citizens who would qualify for a temporary income tax rate reduction.

It’s uncertain how May saw tax breaks for the poor as an interfering with opportunity. He seemed mainly to be suggesting Kagan was looking at the wrong side of the economic equation and that unfettering the free market for business was a better approach to fighting poverty.

Denver Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino later told the Colorado Independent that the facts didn’t align with May’s thinking, a version of Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” or supply-side theory from the 1980s. Ferrandino said that the fact is that the tax code is unfair. He cited Institution on Taxes and Economics figures that demonstrated that, when sales and income tax are taken together with deductions, poor people end up paying more to the government. The top 1 percent of earners pay about a 5.2 percent tax rate while the lowest 20 percent pay about a 10.9 percent rate, nearly double.

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