COLORADO SPRINGS — At the most spirited debate of the season so far, the three candidates for governor mixed it up on a variety of issues Saturday in Colorado Springs.Perhaps most notably, American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo rolled out his new position on Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. Tancredo originally said he supported all three measures, then came out a little over a week ago at a debate in Loveland and said he was reconsidering that position as he continued to study the matter. He never actually said he was changing his position — only that he was still thinking about it.
Saturday, he said he supports Amendment 60 and Proposition 101, but opposed Amendment 61. Opponents have dubbed the tax-slashing measures “the Bad Three.”
“The nightmare scenario that is often associated with these three acts is totally incorrect,” he said. “I believe there are going to be, undeniably, some challenges if these three were to be passed, but I support 60 and I support 101.
“I will tell you that in this case, what we are talking about here is not the end of civilization as we know it if these pass,” he said.
Tancredo said these measures will not cut the budget so much as restrict the state government from increasing the amount of revenue it can take from people.
“These are all cuts in the rate of growth. These things will impede the ability of the state to grow its budget as fast as it wants to,” Tancredo said.
He also said these measures will be phased in over a period of 10 years and will not result in the kinds of immediate drastic cuts that some forecast. “Reducing the rate of growth is not the same as reducing the budget,” he said.
Republican Dan Maes ripped into Tancredo for what he termed “the fourth gyration of your answer since last week.”
Tancredo said it was only the third, to which Maes replied, “I can’t count that high.”
“You can’t count at all,” Tancredo shot back.
“If you listen to the people and you modify your position, I call that being a statesman, but you call that being a fraud and a liar, so what are you today? A fraud and a liar or a statesman?” Maes asked Tancredo.
It wasn’t the first time the two had mixed it up in the debate. Maes began his opening statement, to a room liberally salted with people wearing red Maes T-shirts, with this comment: “There is one person in the state who absolutely deserves boos for the malicious and viscous campaign he has run,” Maes said while Tancredo visibly cringed. “I’m going to ask you not to do that,” Maes concluded to laughter as Tancredo smiled and relaxed his shoulders.
Maes and Democrat John Hickenlooper both reiterated the positions they had staked out earlier on the ballot measures, with Maes saying he supports Amendment 60 but opposed the other two, and Hickenlooper continuing to oppose all three.
“Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 are a clear message from the people of Colorado that they are sick and tired of how Democrats have run the state,” Maes said.
“The rules say if you want to raise taxes, you go to the people for a vote of the people,” Maes said.
“(Gov.) Bill Ritter mugged you in the alley next to the Capitol. He put two liberal Supreme Court justices on one end of the alley and two liberal Supreme Court justices at the other end of the alley and they said go ahead and roll him Bill. Just change the name from tax to fee and have your way.”
“These three initiatives are sending the message that people are sick and tired of those games in the Capitol, sick and tired of what Democrats have done when they had control down there,” Maes said.
He said that with the state already facing a billion-dollar shortfall, he couldn’t support all these measures at once, however.
Following Maes, Hickenlooper said, “I understand what he is talking about. I’ve seen the frustration and the anger people feel, but these aren’t the right solutions. Any one of these would pull so much money out of the state economy. We are already to the point where 40 percent of our schools are on a four-day week. Step back and think about what that is saying.
“We don’t have the luxury to go back and analyze whether this was fair or that was fair. If we pass all three of these it will pull more than $2 billion from the economy. It would be staggering. That is why every single chamber of commerce, every single business group opposes these. These are not just attacks on government. What they are is debilitating attacks on the entire state and on business and on our ability to create jobs. It would be a voter approved recession if any one of these passes. We need to move toward having a smaller government and a more responsive and effective government, but this isn’t the way to get there.
“These are opposed by every business group in the state, this isn’t just liberals. Almost every significant leader in the state is opposed to all three,” Hickenlooper said.
“Businesses who oppose these for the most part are businesses that are in business with the state and are worried about whether that particular gravy boat is going to end,” Tancredo said.
Tancredo on Saturday also called for the legalization of marijuana.
The debate was sponsored by Action 22, an organization of 22 counties in southern Colorado.