All But One Colo. Democrat State Senator Enable Passage of Tax Hikes

Nine days ago I pointed out the number of vulnerable Colorado state house Democrats who voted to push through the “Dirty Dozen” tax hikes. Today it was the state senate’s turn. Based on my recent projections, much of the voting activity makes sense.

Take a quick look at today’s Senate Journal, and what do you see? All Senate Republicans unanimously voted against each and every one of the tax hikes. Hooray for them. Too bad the Democrats have the majority and were able to pass all nine bills with either 18 (the bare minimum) or 19 votes.

One Democrat running in a vulnerable seat voted No on all nine tax hike bills, giving her a singular distinction among the entire house and senate majority caucus: Sen. Gail Schwarz. You think this is motivated by anything but genuine political fear? I wonder what the Dems’ polling is showing them about Senate District 5. But with 21 Democratic senators, her vote was a throwaway.

Similarly, Sen. Bruce Whitehead — facing the stiffest challenge of any legislative incumbent this year — only voted for the tax increase on software downloads (1192) and Internet sales (1193). Those two are bad enough votes alone (especially 1192, which enabled the bill to pass), that his other No votes will be virtually meaningless in comparison.

Outgoing state senator Paula Sandoval cast 5 no votes and 4 yes votes (1193; 1189 – Direct mail; 1199 – Corporate net profit operating losses; and 1196 – Alternative fuel vehicles, the last for which she was the deciding vote). The only other Democrat state senators even to make a gesture of standing up to party leadership on the tax hikes were Linda Newell (who opposed 1192 and 1196, and happens to be up for re-election in 2012) and Lois Tochtrop (who broke her perfect tax-raising streak by standing against the Internet sales tax — Republican challenger, anyone?).

Lessons? Majorities matter. The Democrats have won the day politically, but their victory is short-lived. While conference committees may follow on some bills, those would be technicalities. At the end of the day, Gov. Bill Ritter will sign the tax hikes into law, and you will be stuck with the bill. But every Democrat in the state legislature (except Gail Schwartz) who enabled the tax hikes to pass will face the wrath of voters in November. And we won’t forget.

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