Monday, October 17, 2005

Mike Rosen Op Ed Could Foreshadow Defeat Of C and D.

A recent Op Ed by Conservative Talk Radio Host Mike Rosen outlines what, in hindsight, we may agree were the reasons for Referendum C and D failing at the polls on November 1st; if they do.

Here are a few of the highlights:

No more than a handful of voters are well-versed on the details and nuances of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and the state budget process. The rest derive their impressions from activists on each side, fair and unfair "news" stories, opinion commentaries, and 30-second radio and TV spots.

While Rosen may be a conservative, he does do excellent, if partisan, analysis:

While C and D opponents are correct in saying that overall state spending has not gone down in any year because of TABOR, it's also true that inflation-adjusted per capita spending is, in fact, down from prior years in some areas. And while C and D advocates are correct in saying that there will be no increase in statutory tax rates, there will be an increase in effective tax rates under their proposal. Your effective tax rate is what you pay net of your TABOR refund. If the state keeps your TABOR refund and spends it on government programs, your effective tax rate will necessarily be higher...Bottom line: C and D constitute a tax increase.

Colorado's fiscal problems were compounded by Amendment 23, which put K-12 spending on autopilot, regardless of overall revenue shortfalls. That contributed to the squeeze in other areas like roads, transportation and building maintenance. This was good for the teachers unions that contrived Amendment 23, but bad for everyone else.

So Mike Rosen throws out a compromise, mired in the memory of the 100/100 plan that the GOP controlled legislature tried to put out before 2004:

So I'm willing to compromise something I like - TABOR - in exchange for which I expect Democrats to compromise something they like - Amendment 23. Such a deal was offered in 2004 by Gov. Bill Owens and Republican leaders in the state legislature. The 100/100 Plan would have reduced the TABOR refund by $100 million for two consecutive years and also slowed Amendment 23-mandated K-12 spending by the same amount for the same period. Democrats, in tow to the teachers unions, rebuffed it.

This echoes closely analysis that Mile High Delphi has recently done.

In 2005, after Democrats took control of the state legislature, Owens found himself negotiating from weakness. Since a change in Amendment 23 can only be put to the voters in an even-numbered year, Owens believes C and D is the best deal he can get in 2005 and doesn't want to risk a death blow to TABOR next year if C and D fail.

Many wavering Republicans seem to be echoing Rosen's rational. Shot down C and D and go for a better offer in 2006:

A compromise with $2 billion in additional taxes and spending should be sufficient to meet the state's essential needs. It should also include a rainy-day fund to cover future shortfalls and a reduction in Amendment 23 increases - which can be put to the voters in 2006...In a fair compromise, both sides give. So far, Democrats and liberals haven't given anything. So I'm voting "no" on C and D and relying on reasonable Democrats in the state legislature to roll up their sleeves and cooperate in forging a more sensible compromise in the next session.

It may be a little premature, but if C and D go down, I'd re-read this Op Ed. The seeds of C and D's destruction may have been planted in 2003.

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