CLUNKER: Even Aspen Doesn’t Like Hick’s Tax Hike

Governor John Hickenlooper may be throwing his political weight behind the billion dollar tax hike campaign at a press conference tomorrow, but it appears he still has some of his liberal base to shore up on the issue.

The Aspen Daily News reports that the Aspen School Board is “struggling over” whether to support the tax increase because it would actually mean a loss of funding for Aspen schools, requiring the School Board to ask for another tax increase after the billion dollar statewide one passes.

Aspen School Board members are struggling over whether to support a proposed statewide income tax increase for education, because part of the new law would put a dent in state funds the local district receives to compensate for the area’s high cost of living…

The measure also would eliminate the existing school finance formula, which figures in cost of living in state distributions to local school districts. Aspen’s cost of living increase is one of the highest in Colorado, so the school district stands to lose millions over the long run if that metric is eliminated.

While exact dollar amounts are still being hammered out, Parker said the school board would likely come back to voters in two years to raise additional property taxes to make up for the loss funds if cost of living is eliminated from the state formula…

[Commissioner Rachel] Richards suggested to school board members that “maybe you could be neutral” on the tax increase.

Considering Aspen’s county — Pitkin — was one of only three out of 64 counties to support Prop 103 in 2011, this is not a good sign for tax hike proponents.

Someone tell Curtis Hubbard he’s got some calls to make.


DOUBLE OR NOTHING: 2013′s Tax Increase Asks For Twice As Much As Failed 2011 Effort

When voters read the blue book explaining the ballot initiatives this November it’s safe to assume they won’t all be engrossed to the end. In all likelihood most probably won’t read past the first sentence. After all, the Pew Center on the States found it takes a PhD level education to fully grasp the language.

All of which is to say the billion dollar tax increase is screwed.

To understand why, you simply have to look at the language voters will be reading when they receive their ballots.

Here’s the language voters saw about Prop 103 in 2011, which lost 63-37:

And, per Floyd Ciruli, here is the language that voters will see on their ballot this year:

It’s all really simple. If voters rejected an annual income tax increase of $536.1 million by a substantial 2-1 margin only two years ago, who in their right mind expects voters to pass double that amount?


RUNNING TO THE LEFT: Hickenlooper Announces Support For Impending $1 Billion Tax Hike Campaign

Democrats applaud Hickenlooper for signing SB213, the bill attached to the impending $1 billion tax hike campaign

In a sign Governor Hickenlooper has all but abandoned any hope at retaining his moderate political brand, yesterday he announced his support for an impending $1 billion tax hike campaign.

Reports The Durango Herald‘s Joe Hanel at the bottom of a piece about Hickenlooper signing the attached SB213:

Hickenlooper pledged Tuesday to campaign for the tax increase once the sponsors pick a single initiative.

This, folks, is big news. In 2011, Hickenlooper steadfastly refused to take a public position on the Prop 103 tax hike ballot initiative, earning the derisive nickname “Chickenlooper.

Currently tax hike proponents are deciding between raising taxes through increasing the flat tax rate, or creating a graduated system, with higher incomes being taxed at an even higher rate.

The fact that Hickenlooper has already agreed to back the billion dollar tax increase, without even knowing what form it wil take, is a risky move.

A recent poll that purposely over-sampled Democrats found that voters strongly oppose a tax increase, no matter what form it takes.

From our post on the poll:

Magellan polled 675 respondents from April 24-25 and found an overwhelming opposition to income tax hikes, with 55% of respondents opposed to the idea of raising the state income tax from 4.63% to 5.35% to only 36% supportive of the idea.

When asking about a graduated income tax hike, with those making less than $75,000 seeing their taxes go up 1%, while those making over $75,000 would see a 3% hike, the opposition increased slightly with 56% opposed and 35% in support.

We honestly can’t think of a single ballot initiative in Colorado history that started at 36% support to 55% opposition that succeeded in the end.

In a still fragile economy, voters simply aren’t willing to hand over more cash to the government.

With Hickenlooper’s approval rating already underwater with independents, this certainly can’t help his political standing.


GIVE IT UP, MIKEY: Statewide Poll Shows No Appetite For Tax Hike In 2013

State Senator Mike Johnston, the better looking version of failed Prop 103 tax hike leader Rollie Heath, is pushing a $1.1 BILLION dollar tax increase for the ballot this year. A new survey by Magellan Strategies indicates Mikey would be better off staying at home than wasting his time pushing a tax hike when Colorado voters have no intention of supporting it.

Magellan polled 675 respondents from April 24-25 and found an overwhelming opposition to income tax hikes, with 55% of respondents opposed to the idea of raising the state income tax from 4.63% to 5.35% to only 36% supportive of the idea.

When asking about a graduated income tax hike, with those making less than $75,000 seeing their taxes go up 1%, while those making over $75,000 would see a 3% hike, the opposition increased slightly with 56% opposed and 35% in support.

Those results are close to the last tax hike attempt in Colorado, Prop 103 in 2011. That ballot initiative lost 2-1 across the state — a crushing defeat for Rollie Heath and his team.

Based on Magellan’s survey, it doesn’t look like this year’s tax hike attempt will fair much better.

The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.77%. The sample reflected the conservative leanings of odd year elections — historically low turnout affairs — with 39% Republican, 36% Democrat and 25% Unaffiliated. It used a combination of cell phones and landlines to reach respondents.

There was a bright spot in the poll for tax hikers — people are positive about the general idea of raising taxes for education 50%-43%. The problem for the tax hike set is that as soon as you ask about specific proposals, the bottom falls out.

It seems people like the idea of spending more money on education — as long as it’s someone else’s.

Long live TABOR!

UPDATE: An interesting note from the polling memo: The sample used is slightly more Democratic in its makeup than previous off-year elections, giving the pro-tax hike side a slight bump. And they are still getting crushed. See the partisan makeup of the electorate in 2009 and 2011 below:


GLASS JAW GOVERNOR? Hickenlooper’s Ability To Withstand A Political Punch Relatively Untested

Governor Hickenlooper has been the recipient of a hard-hitting, professional attack ad campaign by Republicans just once in his political career. Once. And then Dan Maes took the GOP nomination and every outside player fled the state.

With Hickenlooper taking a 20-point hit in favorability in the latest PPP poll, it’s instructive to look back at that brief moment of political peril for the governor for what it says about his ability to take a political punch.

The assault by the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) in early May 2010 focused heavily on his raising taxes as Denver Mayor and the job losses at Frontier Airlines that happened as a result, and tied him to unpopular one-term Governor Ritter.

The smartly produced, memorable spot had a little over half a million behind it over a one-month period — a not insignificant, nor exceptionally huge, budget.

As a result, Hickenlooper’s numbers went into freefall.

Less than two weeks after the assault on the airwaves began, a PPP poll found Hick had gone from an 11-point lead over Scott McInnis in the previous PPP poll to being tied.

It was a crushing blow that reshaped the race dramatically.

Unfortunately, soon thereafter everything fell apart. The plagiarism scandal consumed McInnis’s campaign and paved the way for the most disastrous major party nomination in modern history in Dan Maes. 

But it’s that ever-so-brief moment that makes some wonder whether Hickenlooper is as politically invincible as conventional wisdom would suggest.

The second sustained assault Hickenlooper has faced from Republicans in his career, though with virtually no paid media, was over gun control.

And just like after the RGA attack, Hickenlooper’s polling numbers plummeted like a cartoon anvil.

Two assaults, two big poll hits.

Does Governor Hickenlooper have a glass jaw?


MOST LIBERAL LEGISLATURE IN HISTORY: The Consequences Of Democrats Radical Redirect To The Left

Yesterday’s Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado that found that Governor Hickenlooper had taken a 20 point nosedive among voters revealed one of the major consequences to come out of a legislative session dubbed by The Durango Herald‘s Joe Hanel as “one of the most liberal ever.”

A flashback to that Durango Herald piece from April 8:

DENVER – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Colorado legislators have done a lot this year. 

If the session ended today, it would go down as one of the most productive and liberal ever, with new laws allowing civil unions, in-state tuition for children who lack citizenship and some of the only new gun control bills in the country this year, and they are on their way to expanding eligibility for Medicaid.

But with 30 days left in their annual session, Democrats are just getting warmed up.

KDVR’s Eli Stokols predicted this would happen in a 5280 Magazine piece in March, suggesting Democrats could be confronted with a case of “whiplash” from their over-reaching legislative agenda. (The article is offline right now, but we’ll link if/when it goes back up It’s been reposted here). Eli’s inner-Swami proved quite prescient.

The consensus among the Colorado press corps seems to be coalescing around the idea that this legislative session has been on the radical side of liberal…sorry, progressive…much to the chagrin of Democratic leaders like House Speaker Mark Ferrandino who promised to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

From gun control to Hitler’s dog to sex ed for 1st graders, the topic of discussion under the Gold Dome has been everything but economics so far this year.

Hick’s twenty point hit since Christmas, almost entirely in the form of moderate Republicans and independents fleeing his ship, is nothing to sneeze at. That fundamentally reshapes Hickenlooper’s political standing in the state.

Hick’s slide likely isn’t over yet, either. The Progressive Leap Forward still has many miles to go.

There is still a slate of horrible bills yet to reach the Guv’s desk — like driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, a Common Cause-drafted election bill and a slew of anti-business legislation.

Not to mention the coming billion dollar tax increase campaign.

There is a reason the last tax hike campaign, Prop 103 in 2011, lost everywhere in Colorado but Boulder, Aspen and Telluride. Tax increases are like Democrats in Douglas County — a guaranteed loser.

While Hickenlooper managed to evade a public position on Prop 103, both the media and liberals are not likely to give him a free pass this time around. He’ll have to take a position. Coming out against it would enrage the left, and considering the pressure liberals were able to exact on him during the gun debate, we can’t be sure Hickenlooper won’t dive down the tax hike rabbit hole.

Suffice it to say supporting a tax hike in this economy won’t help improve his numbers.

The political blowback for legislative Democrats has only just begun, with a number of them having to fend off recall campaigns that will prove costly, both in time and treasure.

Such are the consequences for the most liberal legislature ever.


TAX HIKE HOORAY! 20 Democratic Senators Vote In Favor Of Bill Tied To Billion Dollar Tax Increase

Today, the full Democratic Senate caucus voted in favor of SB213, the School Finance Act that is tied to a billion dollar increase.

For that, let’s give them three cheers.

No, not for the actual raising of taxes — which requires a vote of the people that is destined to fail — but for going on the record for a billion dollar tax hike.

A number of GOP consultants have asked us to extend their sincere appreciation to Senate President John Morse and his caucus — they just helped write a whole flight of direct mail hit pieces and fundraising solicitations.

We too would like to thank the fine Senators for helping clarify things. In 2011, we tried to get every member of the Legislature on record on the last tax increase try, Prop 103. Unfortunately, the mainstream press didn’t seem interested and didn’t try to track down the position of legislators, so we were forced to comb through the petition circulator list, legislator newsletters and video of town halls to figure out where our elected leadership stood on increasing taxes.

Tracking down tax hike stances of those in support of raising them has been difficult ever since the passing of TABOR. The Constitutional amendment that has helped save Colorado from a California-like financial reality has indirectly been a huge boon to Democrats in Colorado, as it has allowed them to hide their support for tax increases. SB213, with it’s reliance on a billion dollar tax hike to take effect, helps bridge that gap for campaign rhetoric. 

Sure, Democrats will cry that they didn’t vote for the tax increase itself, merely a bill that would only take effect should the tax hike pass. We’re sure GOP consultants will be glad to let local networks and papers explain the distinction without a difference. Today’s vote gives the consultants all the paid media grist they need to start slamming the senators as tax hike loving, gun hating left wingers, focused more on social policy than economic legislation.

You hear that, Democrats? That’s the sound of consultants clinking glasses in cheers for the business you just brought them.


FILED: Former State Rep. Judy Solano Files to Replace State Sen. Lois Tochtrop

UPDATE: Of course, the real question – will Solano heed Tochtrop’s warning about gun control?  As we noted earlier, The Colorado Observer quoted Tochtrop as warning Democrats in swing districts that they “have to be very careful to vote their district’s sentiment” on gun control.  If Solano’s past behavior is any indication of future, we’re betting she ignores tips to moderate.

Former Democratic State Representative Judy Solano, who represented State House District 31, yesterday filed to replace State Senator Lois Tochtrop in Senate District 24, a district that is considered fairly competitive by some political insiders.  Tochtrop, who serves as the Senate Assistant Majority Leader, is term limited as a Senator.

Solano is a former teacher who received her largest donations in 2010 from unions, according to Ballotopedia.  Specifically, her four largest donors were the Food and Commercial Workers union, Colorado Education Association, Colorado Professional Firefighters union, and Service Employees International Union.  Adding to her liberal street creds, she’s a member of the embattled Adams County Democratic Party, the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the National Education Association, and the Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter, among others.

And, Solano is no ordinary liberal.  She sits on far left of the liberal spectrum as demonstrated by her quiet embrace of Proposition 103, which would have killed nearly 120,000 jobs in Colorado.  Solano also stood with her SEIU union goons brethren in a “solidarity protest” at Colorado’s State Capitol against reforms that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker hoped to enact.

While Solano perhaps is best-known for her education legislation, her lesser-known votes would have spelled trouble for Colorado’s middle class families.  For example, she’s voted to increase vehicle registration and insurance fees as well as to increase utility bills in the name of green energy initiatives, which have worked out so well in Colorado (ahem, Abound).  And, then there are her votes that reveal her legislative love for trial lawyers and obsessive hate for home builders….

What does this all mean?  It means that 2014 is just another step closer.  Game on.


TAX HIKE COMETH: Legislative Democrats Could Push Bank-Breaking $2.75 Billion Tax Increase In 2013

An online education-focused publication, funded in large part by the Colorado teachers’ union, is the first to report a shockingly audacious plan by newly-empowered legislative Democrats.

In 2013, Ed News Colorado reports legislative Democrats could seek up to $2.75 billion in tax hikes for education.

Colorado voters could face a $1 billion decision on school funding in the November 2013 election, if a complicated two-step reform plan plays out as its backers hope.

Discussions about the issue have been underway for more than a year but have intensified in recent weeks. Backers now plan to make school funding a top issue for the 2013 legislative session – and they hope to have a bill passed by mid-March…

Supporters of finance system reform, led by Democratic Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver, hope to achieve their goals in two steps. First, they want the legislature to pass a thorough modernization of the state’s school finance formula. Then they plan to ask voters for the money to support the new system. If the public doesn’t approve the necessary tax increases the new funding system wouldn’t go into effect.

Johnston’s partner in the effort is Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder and author of a proposed tax increase for education that voters rejected in 2011…

At a meeting last week of what’s called the Technical Advisory Group, which Johnston has used as a sounding board on school finance, he estimated the cost of his suggested reforms at more than $2.75 billion. [Peak emphasis]

Whether it’s a $1 billion tax hike or a $2.75 billion tax hike, it’s enough to do serious damage to a slowly-recovering economy.

And if that isn’t enough to break your bank, the second and third part of their plans definitely will…including requiring local school districts to increase taxes even more to access these dollars:



PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ GSA MENTALITY: Investigations Turn Up Massive Spending With Public Dollars

Prop 103, the proposed $3 billion tax increase for public education, failed two-to-one across Colorado. But after recent 7News and CBS4 investigations of outlandish spending by public school districts, if Prop 103 were to come up again it might go down with an even larger margin of loss.

Both CBS4 and 7News found school districts racking up insanely indefensible bills, such as Denver Public Schools spending $200,000 on fast food in a year, or school districts across the state hosting GSA-like conferences at the swanky Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. If public school districts complain about budget cuts, their complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears if they're found paying for $30 hamburgers at the Broadmoor. 

It's not just major television stations uncovering these unexcusable wastes of taxpayer dollars. Education reform activist Regan Benson found that Jefferson County schools spent over $68,000 on just pizza in 2011. As Benson points out, that $68,000 could be better spent hiring seven part-time para-professionals who are used to support teachers and students, which, after all, is how education dollars are meant to be spent. 

The wasteful spending of Colorado school districts and the GSA junket in Vegas are both small amounts in comparison to their total budgets. But they destroy the lack of trust the public places in public officials to spend tax money. If you can't trust someone to spend the money you already give them properly, why in the world would you agree to give them more?

(Photo Credit: Flickr/ Mack_L)

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