Mike Littwin’s Saturday column for the Rocky Mountain News highlights the tenuous ground occupied by supporters of the governor’s official endorsement of the $1.7 billion+ property tax increase. Their best argument apparently is that some opponents mistakenly voted for a similar proposal three years earlier.
Meanwhile, Littwin typifies the rhetorical distortions made by the tax-and-spend crowd. (I omitted the partisan cheapshots that are standard fare for Littwin columns and not to be taken seriously, anyway. Instead, I wish to tackle some of the subtle and salient points about the issue itself that readers are supposed to accept at face value.)
1. The use of the term “property-tax freeze,” as though the change in law were going to stem declining tax revenues, is faulty. (The same error of terminology appeared in the Sunday perspective piece of the Denver Post‘s less partisan, and usually more responsible, Fred Brown.)
My recent report for the Independence Institute debunks the fallacy of declining revenues. Meanwhile, nothing about taxes is being frozen when the new law is estimated to bring in more than $1.7 billion in new revenue over the next decade. The term “property tax-rate freeze” would be closer to precision, though not quite there. Proponents are finding it difficult to scratch around for a term that doesn’t reveal the law actually increases taxes.
2. Then there’s this:
In any case, [State Senator Steve] Johnson doesn’t oppose the bill in theory. But he says TABOR requires it to go before the people for a vote.
There’s an answer for that – coming from House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
“It already did,” he says. “It did 175 times.”
And that’s without rounding up.
“In 175 of 178 schools districts, the people voted and said yes,” Romanoff says of districts that have voted to de-Bruce. “I’m not sure what part of the word yes Republicans don’t understand. Maybe they want a different answer. Maybe they want to keep voting until the voters say no.”
I guess you can’t blame the columnist for not reading the attorney general’s opinion that offers a clear and formidable argument against this facile and dubious claim, but Speaker Romanoff has had formal legal education. He should at least be willing to take on the argument.
It speaks volumes that Governor Bill Ritter and his merry band of tax-hike apologists would rather ignore the argument. They have to stake their ground on the claim that the 175 elections approved years ago by local voters for various local priorities gives the legislature and governor pre-approved, carte blanche authority to drastically change the property tax scheme for the purported rescue of a bloated state budget. Otherwise, it becomes transparent that they have arrogantly spat in taxpayers’ faces (which is why the Independence Institute is leading the charge to organize a lawsuit on behalf of the taxpayers).
And they’d still like to win elections, you know, even if it means keeping voters in the dark.