The Tax Increase Crew has begun ratcheting up their campaign with guilt and scare tactics to kick off the Labor Day weekend. As reported by the Rocky Mountain News, the state announces that it has an overrun of revenues under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), albeit a smaller amount than projected a few months ago.
“This is evidence that the economy is improving, but we still have less revenues than we did in 2001,” said Henry Sobanet, director of Colorado’s Office of State Planning and Budget.
Next year, taxpayers will receive $15 each in TABOR refunds, an amount that figures to rise in successive years. Or you can vote for Referendum C and give more money for the next 5 years – and beyond – to state government.
Go back and read the quote carefully: The economy is improving. But still one of the justifications being trotted forward for Ref C & D is that there is some sort of crisis, the implication being that the government needs more resources to end the recession. Well, my friends, as a good basic sense of history and economics would have told you, the state’s fiscal engine is revving up just fine with the very modest rate of growth allowed to government under TABOR.
So you say, “$15 refund? No big deal!” Sure, it’s your prerogative to say, but the principle remains that you can manage and control your finances better than lawmakers in Denver can. In this spirit, I was almost embarrassed to reprint the following quote:
“Fifteen dollars might buy you and the kids a meal at McDonald’s,” said state Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood. “But at the state, when it’s multiplied, it keeps people in nursing homes and at-risk children in school.”
“It’s an investment in the state,” she said.
I can think of a lot of places I’d rather invest my money, with more success, including private charitable organizations. Guilt and scare tactics… what a shame. But we shouldn’t be surprised when another story in the Rocky Mountain News tries to assert that the Independence Institute has advocated the release of violent drug offenders from prison… just like the absurd radio ads. One of the recommendations in the report Priority Colorado was based on information from the State of Colorado’s own fiscal reports as follows (it speaks for itself):
In 1984 Colorado had fewer than 4,000 adult prisoners. By October 2004 the number had grown to over 19,800. That is more than a 400-percent increase in 20 years. The largest growth area has been that of “non-violent offenders”— typically those convicted of drug crimes. In fact, more than 20 percent of all inmates are in prison for non-violent drug-related offenses. This population accounted for 22 percent of new commitments in Fiscal Year 2003. Since 1985 the percentage of prisoners locked up for non-violent drug offenses has nearly quadrupled.
On average, it costs over $28,000 a year to keep an inmate in Colorado’s prisons for the year. Offenders housed in non-prison settings cost from $3,477 (for parole) to $11,027 (for community intensive supervision program).
Given that 20 percent of Colorado’s prison population consists of non-violent drug offenders, there are approximately 3,900 of these inmates, which cost the state approximately $109 million a year. Approximately 50 percent of these inmates were convicted of simple possession. This group of inmates is ripe for alternative sentencing.
The substance of the claims has been ignored and the assertion made that the Institute favors the release of violent criminals. As the Rocky reports:
At the Capitol press conference, Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr said people should not be fooled by drug offenders.
“These people aren’t going to prison for smoking a joint or possessing an ounce,” he said.
Instead, they’re in prison because they’ve created methamphetamine labs that endanger children, or been involved in gunfights with rival gangs or police, or have blown several chances to stay out of prison.
Darr, who is on metro Denver’s task force on violent gangs, said its best tool to get them off the streets is to charge them with drug crimes.
If they are guilty of violent offenses, why can’t they be charged with them? Unfortunately, that honest debate has been politicized by the Tax Increase Crew to frighten voters into supporting their plan. But you don’t necessarily have to agree with each of the suggested reforms in Priority Colorado to see the tax increase and its supporters’ scare tactics for what they are. Witness this quote from the article:
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said he agrees with the DAs and sheriffs on needing to keep drug offenders in prisons, but that he is opposed to C and D.
“They’re just a massive tax increase,” he said.
“I see nothing in them that is going to help law enforcement, other than the police and fire pension funds.
“I’d rather have the money in my own pocket – it would be better for the economy.”
Way to go, Sheriff Cooke!
Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, everyone – keep the people in the Gulf in your prayers, and don’t forget to donate to their relief!