Long silent on the subject of three Colorado tax-slashing ballot initiatives, Republican candidate for governor Scott McInnis reportedly told attendees at the state’s Contractors Association convention at the beginning of the month that in fact he did not support the initiatives, which have been popular with Tea Party activists in the state. McInnis agreed with Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper and other lawmakers, including GOP legislative leaders, that the initiatives would destroy the state government’s ability to function.
Reporting on the conference at his transportation blog, Inside Lane, Kevin Flynn wrote that McInnis agreed that the math just doesn’t “add up.”
“Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 “don’t add up,” McInnis said, according to Flynn. McInnis understands voter frustration with the cost of government, he said, but “as a leader, I gotta say, do the math. It doesn’t add up on these amendments. These are not good amendments.”
Hickenlooper’s opposition was more evocative, according to Flynn:
“All three of those ultimately will result in us being unable to build anything,” Hickenlooper said. “From your point of view, it would be impossible for government to build anything. You’re condemning us to be a second-tier country.”
The ballot initiatives would slash billions in revenue to the state.
Ritter told the Colorado Independent in December that they were “dangerous,” that whole sections of public service– whether schools or roads or medical care– would simply have to fall away. He called on politicians to unite in opposing the initiatives, calling on McInnis in particular to take a stand.
In November, around the time that signatures supporting the initiatives were submitted to the Secretary of State to land them on November ballot, McInnis campaign spokesman Josh Green told the Colorado Independent that the former Congressman had not yet fully reviewed the initiatives and so had yet to decide whether he would support or oppose them.
“[McInnis] really hasn’t looked at those initiatives closely yet, so we can’t comment at this time,” he said.
McInnis has struggled with some embarrassment to shore up support among the anti-tax Tea Party members of the right. Flynn’s report from the Contractor’s association this month appears to be the first public statement McInnis has made on the subject.
Fiscal analysts say it’s difficult to overstate the effects the initiatives would have on Colorado public services.
Carol Hedges, senior analyst at the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, told the Colorado Independent that the proposals would be “devastating.”
One of the initiatives alone, she said, the one sponsored by Kersey resident Jeff Gross and famous Colorado anti-tax figure Freda Poundstone, would see “close to $1.3 billion in revenue reductions.
“That translates directly to $1.3 billion in cuts. That’s the point that matters. Colorado already ranks 48th in state taxation. It ranks 46th in state and local taxation.” Coloradans don’t pay a lot of taxes as it is, she said, so this initiative by itself would force us to rethink the role of government in the state.
The initiatives’ proponents also face a coming court battle.
A group opposing the initiatives, Protect Colorado’s Communities, brought a lawsuit in the fall alleging that the initiative proponents violated state disclosure laws by failing to report financial supporters of the petition-gathering process. That complaint gained additional support in January when the Colorado Springs Gazette uncovered that Doug Bruce, the father of the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, had seemed to surreptitiously provided support for professional petition circulators. By the time the Gazette story ran, however, it was virtually an open secret that Bruce was a main force behind the initiatives.
Hat tip to Colorado Pols for highlighting Kevin Flynn’s reporting.