What Does Bill Ritter Know about Court to Gamble Taxpayer Dollars?

Yesterday, highlighting Governor Bill Ritter’s arrogant response to the recent court decision finding his property tax hike unconstitutional, Republican leaders in the state legislature Mike May and Andy McElhany dashed off a scathing letter:

It is irresponsible to assume that the Colorado Supreme Court will overturn the decision of the District Court that your property tax proposal from last year is unconstitutional.

A new analysis by Legislative Council shows that the cost of doing nothing to address this possibility, before the budget goes into effect on July 1, 2008, will be $272 million! The price of inaction is too great.

Serving in the justice system, you saw how difficult it is to win on appeal, and must recognize the need for a plan of action should the appeal fail.

It was unwise to ignore the opinion of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers: It is reckless to ignore both the attorney general and our District Court.

We are writing to request that you notify the legislature of your plan to address the unbalanced budget situation created by your unconstitutional property tax hike. As our governor, you have the power to make cuts to the budget or to call us into a special session.

If you refuse to act, we strongly believe you owe the people of Colorado an explanation as to why you are so certain that the Supreme Court will overturn the existing ruling.

We cannot help but wonder if you know something that the rest of Colorado does not, that causes you to be so confident that the Supreme Court, tasked with upholding justice and not agendas, will come down on your side….

“We cannot help but wonder if you know something that the rest of Colorado does not….” For fans of U.S. history, this reminds me of President James Buchanan’s inaugural speech delivered just two days before the release of the infamous pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, in which he addressed the dispute over decisions about slavery in the federal territories:

Besides, it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled. To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit, whatever this may be….

It was easy for Abraham Lincoln’s predecessor to “cheerfully submit” to the Dred Scott decision, for history tells us that President-elect Buchanan had been lobbying the justices behind the scenes to achieve a political outcome that would unify his Democrat Party and placate its pro-slavery Southern wing. How often since then has a President or governor so confidently gambled the rights or interests of citizens on the outcome of a case to be decided by the supposedly independent judicial branch?

It’s a fair question to ask whether Bill Ritter knows something that the rest of us Coloradans do not. Maybe after the outrageous state supreme court decision two weeks ago that gave labor unions a legally-protected electoral advantage, the Governor feels safe that the majority will come down in his favor. In the meantime, Ritter is playing roulette with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Mr. DNA at Rocky Mountain Right makes a similar argument, calling out the Governor for “arrogant partisan politics” and noting that “Ritter is putting our state at an incredible risk with his political gamesmanship.”

Taking more of a detached analytical view, the Grand Junction Sentinel‘s Mike Saccone says May and McElhany are taking the right approach: “Republicans have to be aware of the political rewards they can reap by pushing a tax message in the state courts and court of public opinion ahead of the 2008 election,” he writes.

But the GOP should also keep in mind the advice of a friendly Colorado blogger, Michael at Best Destiny, cautioning that the pro-taxpayer message should also contain a positive message about education reform.


  1. Sarah F. says

    The fix is in and the Supreme Court will reverse Judge Habas’ decision. The Supreme Court wanted a new building, the legislature said no unless the Court could create a source of revenue, and Gerald Marroney (State Court Administrator) proposed raising the fees charged by the Clerks of Court (some being raised $200) to pay for the construction. The legislature said okay. Payback will be the reversal of the Habas decision.

Leave a Reply