We took the liberty of planning your upcoming Friday night for you, so just go with it. First at 8:00 tune in to Colorado Public Television 12 and catch Independence Institute research director David Kopel on the public affairs show “Colorado Inside Out.” Then stay tuned at 8:30 for Devil’s Advocate as I am joined by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to discuss, among other issues, the numerous gun related bills making their way through the General Assembly. That all starts Friday, March 8 at 8:00 PM on Colorado Public Television 12. Seriously, what else do you have going on?
Archive for the 'Government Largess' Category
Obama is trying to spook state governors about budget cuts that could effect their states. I say call his bluff. I also say no one can notice my double chin thanks to my manly beard. Watch this 9news piece and see if you can catch my chins.
From September 28th- 30th, the Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will host a weekend full of films, presentations, and thought provoking discussions at the Second Annual Free Minds Film Festival. The festival explores the ideas of a free society and the specific topics will include the war on drugs, eminent domain, cronyism, gun control, the trail of tears and government sponsored genocide, luck and equality, lessons from ancient Rome and Panem, the horrors of the Soviet Union, and, of course, how to change the world!
Featured titles include blockbuster “The Hunger Games,” Academy Award shortlisted documentary “Battle for Brooklyn,” locally made “Guns and Weed: The Road to Freedom,” the inspiring true story “Amazing Grace,” and “The Soviet Story” will return as a permanent tradition.
Local and national experts will speak after the films and take questions from the audience. Speakers include Lawrence Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education, Metropolitan State University of Denver Economics Professor Dr. Alexandre Padilla, Isaac Morehouse from the Institute for Humane Studies, Dr. Amy Sturgis Interdisciplinary Studies professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University and the Mythgard Institute, retired Denver Police Officer Tony Ryan, and Denver- based Philosopher Dr. Diana Hsieh.
Friday and Saturday night will conclude with free beer and food and great conversation at BJ’s Brewhouse courtesy of Liberty on the Rocks.
The first Free Minds Film Festival was nominated for “Event of the Year” at the International Students For Liberty Conference and attracted over 90 attendees. The event is free and open to the public and the media.
A full schedule of the weekend including trailers, biographies, and directions to the event is available at www.freemindsfilmfestival.com.
The Washington DC based Tax Foundation called me the other day for a chat about Governor Hickenlooper’s fantastic record on passing tax and debt increases here in Colorado. Whether it was for light rail, schools, or jails, Hick has the magic touch when it comes to selling tax increases.
You can listen to the podcast here.
If you wanted an inside perspective on the open negotiations between the Douglas County Board of Education and their teachers union, take a look at Education Policy analyst Ben DeGrow’s article for Public Sector Inc, Challenging Union Power and Privilege: From Wisconsin to Colorado. Ben makes note that reforms are happening down in Douglas County and may help spread the message of parent and student empowerment over the entrenched special interests of teachers unions.
Have you ever heard of refrigerator welfare? Neither did I until I read this investigative piece by Todd Shepherd. Turns out, some of the stimulus funds used to “weatherize” homes and make them more “green” were used to buy home appliances for Coloradans. Todd writes,
In Colorado, stimulus funds helped more than 4,100 households get new refrigerators, at no cost to the recipient. Stimulus funds also replaced upwards of 3,900 water heaters, again, with no cost to the recipient.
How come I didn’t get one?!
The Denver Post is reporting on a lawsuit that challenges the 2009 “FASTER” legislation. If you can remember, Bill Ritter signed FASTER into law in order to raise money for transportation repairs – specifically bridges and roads. How did they raise the money for the repairs. Simple: new “fees.” Under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), the legislature does not need our permission to increase fees, they only need permission to raise taxes. The lawsuit filed by the Mountain States Legal Foundation today on behalf of the TABOR foundation argues that the “fees” implemented by FASTER are not legitimate fees; they are clear cut taxes. Therefore, FASTER has increased taxes without our consent and thus, violated TABOR.
In addition to the fee tax increases to drum up funding, the state also went into debt for around $300 million. Also a violation of TABOR. As you can probably tell from my describing this situation, we are in full support of this lawsuit. In fact, we at the Independence Institute have provided much of the intellectual ammunition behind the suit. I want to specifically thank Fiscal Policy Center director Penn Pfiffner for taking the lead on providing the firepower against FASTER.
Take a look at our two Issue Backgrounders – one from Tom Ryan attacking the “fee” increase and the other from Rich Sokol attacking the debt increase. We also filmed an episode of my TV show, Devils Advocate with the authors. You can see the show here.
For a taste of the arguments against both the fee and debt increases, here are the executive summaries from the two papers. The “fee” increase summary:
In 2009 the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 09-108, more commonly known as FASTER. Signed by Governor Bill Ritter, the bill relies on distortions and deliberate misdirections to subvert Colorado’s Constitution and silence the voice of the people. The bill depends on continued silence for its provisions to move forward. Under FASTER, Colorado families are being forced to pay an unconstitutional tax of almost $100 million annually. This tax hits everyone who registers a vehicle in the state squarely in the pocketbook—a tax that was enacted directly by the legislature without a vote of the people.
For the unconstitutional debt increase, here is the summary:
Colorado’s citizens are supposed to have a final say before our state can borrow money. But the 2009 FASTER law subverted citizens’ rights to vote on tax and debt issues. The law allows an unelected group of bureaucrats to appoint an unelected administrator and together borrow whatever amounts of debt can be backed by FASTER funds. On December 1, 2010, they did just that. And now Colorado’s citizens are burdened with $300 million of newly issued debt—with the promise of more to come. Because of the borrowed money, it is unlikely a future legislature can ever repeal the FASTER tax. All this, and we weren’t asked!
Follow this here blog for updates on the lawsuit. We’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
Each year for the past five years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has produced an informative bit of research called, “Rich States, Poor States.” In it, an all-star cast of authors (Art Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams) pore through financial data, fiscal policy, regulatory policy, debt ratios, labor policy, legislation and more to rank every state in accordance to their level of prosperity now and the direction they are headed. For the last 4 editions, Colorado had ranked solidly in the top 5 or 6 – with a strong showing at number 2 just 4 years ago. However, in the latest edition of Rich States, Poor States, we have fallen to number 8. Why is this? Jonathan points out that we carry a huge burden of debt, that we’ve enacted a slew of “fee” increases (FASTER, dirty dozen) recently, and we’re still not a right to work state. All of those count as negatives towards growing economically and thus, contribute to our slide down the rankings.
We had the good fortune to have co-author Jonathan Williams in town at an event here at the Independence Institute Freedom Embassy last week. Fast thinking Fiscal Policy Center director Penn Pfiffner grabbed Jonathan for a quick podcast on the latest edition of Rich States, Poor States. You can find the podcast over on iVoices.org here.
Perusing the Denver Post opinion section this morning, a bizarre headline caught my attention, “Proud to Pay Taxes in Colorado.” What a strange statement, especially in light of the recent scandals involving taxpayer subsidized Solyndra (and soon Vestas) and the General Services Administration (GSA). Why would anyone be proud to pay for those debacles? Anyway, as I read the piece written by Ali Mickelson of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, I realized a few things: First, for someone so proud to pay taxes, it’s strange that Ali works for the nonprofit Fiscal Policy Institute. I can only wonder if Ali is adding an extra zero or two onto her income taxes to make up for the taxes that her employer doesn’t pay. Secondly, her whole argument assumes that without tax funded and state provided goods and services, we would all be living hand to mouth on subsistence farms. I disagree. The goods and services that consumers want would exist whether government forced them on us or not. It’s the frivolous, inefficient, wasteful spending on things people don’t want that would disappear along with our heavy tax burdens. Finally, despite my disagreement with Ali’s claims, they are her opinion and she’s entitled to it. However, there is one claim in the article that I must take issue with. She says,
This year, when you are writing your check, remember that Colorado is a low-tax state. Colorado’s combined state and local taxes rank 44th lowest out of the 50 states per $1,000 of income.
Now that is not an opinion, that is a statement of fact. And it’s a fact that is completely wrong.
I hate to break the news to Ali and her tax and spend compatriots over at the Fiscal Policy Institute, but being what they are, they really should know the truth about Colorado’s fiscal and tax policy. We are not 44th in the nation in our tax burden, we are smack dab in the middle at 26th. What the left fails to mention every time they claim Colorado is a low tax state is that state taxes are only HALF the equation. It would be like saying, “My company is rich! We took in $1,000,000 in revenue this month!” But then fail to mention that they spent $2,000,000 to make it. When you only look at state taxes, it is true that Colorado falls towards the end of the spectrum. But when you take into account the rest of the equation – the LOCAL tax burden – Colorado moves back up towards the middle. Why? Because in Colorado, we do most of our taxation at the local level. Per capita, our local taxes are some of the highest in the country. A good way to look at it is, instead of levying a few very large taxes on everyone, Colorado levies many small taxes on everyone. Almost anything and everything that can be taxed is, just at a relatively small amount.
The bottom line is this: to get the real story on Colorado’s tax burden, check out our Issue Paper, “How Colorado’s Tax Burden Ranks Nationally.” And the next time someone says we rank near the bottom in taxation, remind them that there is another half of the equation that they conveniently left out. Then they’ll thank you when they learn we are a healthy 26th in taxation. Just high enough to avoid dirt roads, starvation, and the apocalypse.
First, Sean Paige joins me to discuss his new project Monkey-Wrenching America.
Then Jim Manley from Mountain States Legal Foundation joins me to talk about winning the CU gun ban case in court:
There is a strong narrative surrounding the tax burden here in Colorado. Unlike some popular narratives repeated by the media, this one is almost half true. It goes a little something like this:
Colorado is a low tax state. From the beginning, our state government has asked very little of us. Which makes a lot of sense considering we’re all just a bunch of independent cowboys anyway. But this self-reliance, earn-your-own-way thinking went a little too far recently with the likes of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and Arveschoug-Bird. Now our state is in a world of hurt compared to other states with higher revenues. We simply do not tax people enough…
Or something like that. You get the idea.
Anyway, like I said, that is almost half true. We decided to exploit some free labor of ours last year and put this popular narrative to the test. Under the guidance of our Fiscal Policy Center Director Penn Pfiffner, we had intern Anthony Gonzalez collect a ton of tax data and compare our tax burdens with the rest of the country. Aside from the difficulty in finding the tax data, there was another rather surprising twist we uncovered: WE’RE AVERAGE. Yup, it’s that simple. We aren’t special in any way whatsoever. We are just a bunch of average Joe’s, getting taxed like half the country and not taxed like the other half.
If you’d like to read how average we are, check out Anthony’s Issue Paper, “How Colorado’s Tax Burdens Rank Nationally.” If you’d like to hear even more about the paper in audio form, listen to this iVoices.org podcast with Penn Pfiffner and Anthony.
You might be wondering why the popular narrative is almost half right. Well, the narrative the way I usually hear it explicitly cites our low STATE tax burden. And that part is true. But it fails to consider the rest of the equation. It fails to consider the LOCAL tax burdens we Coloradans face. It’s in that part of the equation where we make up the ground we need to be stuck right in the middle – at 26th in the nation (where being #1 really sucks). Thus, with a relatively low state tax burden and a relatively high local tax burden, we end up in the middle on a per capita basis. The way I see it, we Coloradans are taxed at a lower rate pretty much any time we do anything at all, so it adds up.