Archive for March, 2009

Issue: Pension costs will cripple us. Solution: Pull covers over head.

Posted by on Mar 31 2009 | Capitol Crazies, education, Government Largess

How are we going to pay for career government employees’ gold-plated retirement packages? I don’t know, but the action surrounding this issue sure is heating up here in Colorado.

Last week Dr. Michael Mannino (who wrote a groundbreaking report for us on the value of “deferred retirement compensation” for Denver public school employees … Hint: Think six-digit amounts) made a presentation to state legislators on the education committees about the extensive sums we’re paying out to meet pension promises.

The response from Rep. Michael Merrifield of the committee? Ignore the substance of the report, and opt for a little grandstanding theatrics instead.

But that doesn’t mean the problem is going away. We’re not the only ones sounding the alarm. Alexander Ooms – a founding board member at the successful West Denver Prep charter school – writes at Ed News Colorado that it’s “time to tell teachers the pension truth”.

Mr. Ooms will probably get raked over the coals for me saying this, but he’s right on with his main point: If we don’t fix the public employee pension system, there are quite a few teachers (and other government workers) here in Colorado who won’t be able to count on that promised pot of gold.

Dr. Mannino makes some modest recommendations (like removing early retirement subsidies) that are worth taking a look at. It’s good to see someone else out there defending the need for these commonsense changes.

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Free People, Free Markets: The One Night Stand

Posted by on Mar 30 2009 | Economics, Events, PPC

The Independence Institute is excited to bring you a summarized version of our successful Free People, Free Markets: The Foundations of Liberty class, that normally runs for 3 hours a day, for 5 consecutive Saturdays. This summarized version, taught by Dr. Paul Prentice, is just one night for 3 hours, but it will be the most rewarding 3 hours you’ll spend all year, I can promise you that.  So if you’ve got commitment issues, try a one night stand, Free People, Free Markets: The One Night Stand on April 15th in Highlands Ranch. It’s the only one night stand your significant other will approve of.

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Friday’s Funny

Posted by on Mar 27 2009 | Friday's Funny, Transparency

© 2008, Benjamin Hummel. To see more cartoons like this go to

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Fastracks Discussion

Posted by on Mar 26 2009 | Government Largess, Idiot Box (TV Show), Transportation

You have seen them, maybe ridden them, and certainly have helped to pay for them. A proposal for additional taxes to help the ailing FasTracks projects is speeding across the Denver metro area, while a few voices advocate putting on the brakes. Broomfield Mayor Patrick Quinn and Denver Post staff reporter Jeff Leib join me to discuss the impact of FasTracks on your property, your taxes, and our community at large.  Airs tomorrow night at 8:30 on Denver’s KBDI Channel 12, repeated the following Tuesday at 5 pm.

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A Night with Dave Kopel

Posted by on Mar 24 2009 | Events, Kopelization, Second Amendment

You know him, you love him.  The second amendment expert, research director here at Independence, and gun rights freedom fighter Dave Kopel is hosting an incredible event on Thursday, April 2nd – Second Amendment Rights: A collision course between the Obama admistration and the U.S. Supreme Court.

We will be hosting the event at the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, 290 East Speer Blvd. Denver, CO from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Appetizers and Drinks will be served.

We will also be launching our Second Amendment Project Membership Drive. Become a Charter Member for $100 and receive new Second Amendment Publications! Join by June 30, 2009 to take advantage of the $100 charter membership price (after July 1, memberships will be $125).

Come out and hear the foremost authority on all things guns.  Space is extremely limited so RSVP today online or by phone at 303.279.6536.

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R.I.P. Media Matters: Goodbye to My Man-Crush

Posted by on Mar 20 2009 | Capitol Crazies, PPC, Purely Personal

Colorado Media Matters, run by Tim Gill play-thing Bill Menezes, is no longer.  Here is the entire news reporting of its quiet death by the Denver Post,

One of Colorado’s liberal watchdogs has ceased to bark.

Colorado Media Matters on Monday closed its doors as its parent organization in Washington, D.C., plans more efficient expansions into more states, state editorial director Bill Menezes told The Denver Post.

A new model “will allow us to launch this in other states where they were clamoring for it,” he said.

Media Matters officials in Washington did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The group’s Colorado office, home to five employees at its closure, spent three years red-flagging “misinformation and conservative information not labeled as such” in newspapers and on television and radio, Menezes said.

One of the website’s most frequent targets was libertarian think-tank leader Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute in Golden and host of a radio talk show.

Caldara said he was “absolutely heartbroken.”

He quipped that the Colorado Media Matters staff made up half his audience.

“I feel like I’m losing a stalker girlfriend,” Caldara said.

Colorado Media Matters was the only state affiliate of the national Media Matters, which I’ve gotta tell you was pretty damn flattering.  Their goal was to “Imus” a conservative broadcaster, like me, out of a job. Starting with 12 full-time employees, which apparently dwindled down to five, they were never able to do it in their three years trying.  What was impressive about the whole operation was the out-sourcing of the politics of personal destruction by the Tim Gill machine to leftist organizations.

Of course the most entertaining part of it, and what we will all miss so very much, is the hyper-oversensitivity and the constant state of outrage that Bill Menenzes would have to fake.  And personally I will miss the love-notes that Bill emails me.  A lonely man like me appreciates the attention of, well, anyone.  I was flattered, and yes, a  little curious.  I have never had anyone with such a man-crush on me before, and likely never will again.  So goes love.  (sniff)  Goodbye Bill.  We’ll always have Denver.

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Overpaid at CU?

Posted by on Mar 20 2009 | education, Idiot Box (TV Show)

As students struggle to make tuition payments, public university officials in Colorado are raking in six figure salaries and perks. Given the nation’s current economic woes, and in the aftermath of new salary caps on Wall Street firms taking government money, has the time come to cap salaries of public employees? To discuss the possibility Jessica Corry from the Independence Institute’s Campus Accountability Project and University of Colorado student Kate Melvin join me on Independent Thinking. Airs tonight at 8:30 on Denver’s KBDI Channel 12, repeated the following Tuesday at 5 pm.

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Friday’s Funny

Posted by on Mar 20 2009 | Capitol Crazies, Friday's Funny, Government Largess

© 2008, Benjamin Hummel. To see more cartoons like this go to

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Supreme’s Rule Against Taxpayers – the Video

Posted by on Mar 17 2009 | Government Largess, Media, PPC

Here’s the video of some of my remarks at our press conference yesterday at the Capitol.  Colorado taxpayers got SUPREMELY hosed.  (get it?)

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It’s not the cash, it’s the Constitution, Part IX

Posted by on Mar 17 2009 | Capitol Crazies, Economics, Government Largess,, PPC

When we filed suit in 2007 we knew the Colorado Supreme Court had never missed an opportunity to rule against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution.  But nothing has ever come close to the re-writing of the constitution that came out of the high court yesterday.  (Our attorney Richard Westfall, who did an excellent job for us in court, joins me to discuss the verdict and its ramifications in our latest podcast). Vincent Carroll, now at the Denver Post, summed it up better than I could:

The audacity of the court’s claim is breathtaking. There is not one voter in this state who consciously approved the freezing of mill levy rates yesterday, today, and some day in the future when residential property values rebound and start to accelerate skyward again — not one who heard that issue debated at a local election. To the contrary, many were explicitly told their votes would have no impact on future taxes.

Voters merely agreed to forgo any surplus collected by their districts under the existing system, which did not foresee frozen rates.

“It is undisputed in this case,” noted Justice Allison Eid in her dissent, “that, prior to [the 2007 measure], state law prevented local school districts from keeping $117 million in excess revenues that they had collected after conducting waiver elections.” (That’s my emphasis.)

Just so. It is also undisputed — although the court majority naturally doesn’t mention it — that Colorado voters crushed a ballot amendment in 2003 that would have frozen property-tax rates. Amendment 32 would have adjusted the law in other ways, too, so the parallel with the current tax-rate freeze isn’t perfect, but the main reason the amendment failed is exactly on point: Voters feared that if they approved it, their taxes could soar as property values rose.

Given that history, it was strange — indeed, disorienting — to see Ritter, in reaction to the court decision, claim that “all we were doing was giving voice and respecting the will of the voters” by freezing property-tax rates.

The governor knows perfectly well that any measure proposing to put taxes on an escalator tied to inflating housing values — and thus squeeze homeowners whose incomes weren’t rising as fast — would stand no chance at the polls.

By all means, governor, exult in your victory before the court. But don’t pretend “that voters knew what they were doing in every one of those elections.”

Were they soothsayers, then, who foresaw Ritter’s victory in 2006 and his eventual plans for the property tax?

Colorado voters are smart, but they’ve been blindsided by this one — even though it will be years before they fully appreciate the consequences.

The lazy media is also parroting from Ritter’s PR playbook.  I am seeing mis-reports that this money is for “schools,” or “children.”  I encourage you to demand a correction every time you hear that.  Senate Bill 07-199 doesn’t guarantee a single penny to schools or children.  It will however put billions into the state’s general fund for legislator’s to spend as they see fit.  The governor signing it surrounded by kids back in 2007 doesn’t change its wording.

Yesterday the Colorado Supreme Court lived up to its national reputation as the most partisan court in the country.  Rest easy tonight knowing that all three branches of Colorado’s government are so entrenched in their tax-and-spend mandate they are willing collude to turn a blind eye to the constitution.

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