Former state Representative Victor Mitchell (R-Castle Rock) says Governor Hickenlooper is "weak and indecisive" on the $3 Billion tax hike on the November 1 ballot known as Prop 103. In an interview with the Peak, the former state Rep talked about his role in leading the No on Prop 103 campaign as Chairman of a group called Save Colorado Jobs. In responding to a question about the political implications of the Guv refusing to take a position on the only statewide ballot initiative in 2011, Mitchell lamented the Governor's lack of leadership, adding that he's "disappoint[ed] that he's been ducking" the issue.
Mitchell recently founded the group Save Colorado Jobs in early September to fight back against what he calls "one of the largest tax increases in Colorado history."
In the interview he said he decided to found Save Colorado Jobs because "the citizens of Colorado cannot afford a nearly 10% tax increase in the midst of a weak economy." Prop 103 would increase state income tax by 8% and state sales tax by 3%.
Mitchell said the arguments he's hearing from Prop 103 proponents are tired and discredited, having heard them before from people pushing Amendment 23, Referendum C, mill levy tax increases and the Dirty Dozen tax increases. In Mitchell's mind those tax hikes did little to no good for education, as the "K-12 problem is structure and not funding."
Back when Ref C was on the ballot in 2005, before Mitchell was elected to office, he debated then-Gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter on the initiative that was also sold as a short term fix for school funding. Ritter said then: "This is a one time tax needed to fill an education funding gap." It's a familiar, and increasingly repetitive, argument used to push for higher taxes and fees.
When asked what his main argument against Prop 103 is, Mitchell responds: "Prop 103 is a job killer. In fact, it could cause the loss of as many as 119k jobs over the next 5 years if passed."
When he talks economic impacts and job creation he knows what he is talking about, having created thousands of jobs himself.
Far from a career politician, Mitchell has only held elected office for a single term, representing HD45 in the Legislature for the 2007-2008 session. He has spent most of his career in the private sector, successfully founding and running five companies that have employed thousands. Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce named one of the companies he founded, Advantage Wireless, the "Colorado Small Business Of The Year" in 2000.
The Denver Business Journal recognized him as one of the "Top 40 Under 40" for business executives in Colorado.
From a Denver Business Journal write up in 2002:
Mitchell is a true entrepreneur, never having worked for anyone else: As a junior in college, he operated his own limousine company.
When he sold it a few years later, he had developed it into one of the largest auto transportation businesses in southern California. In 1991, he started a business as a wireless retailer, winning recognition as a top producer for the cellular company he represented.
Drawing from his experience as a retailer, he developed the business strategy that grew Advantage Wireless to more than 90 stores with more than 1,300 subdealers in dozens of markets.
Despite being a businessman at heart, there has been chatter in GOP circles that Mitchell might be looking towards future elections, perhaps even statewide. While he says he has no direct plans to run for office in the future, he is enjoying his time traveling the state to stop Prop 103. If he successfully defeats the initiative, who knows, maybe we’ll see a candidate Mitchell back on the trail.
The full interview is after the jump.
The Peak: Why did you decide to get involved in the No on Prop 103 campaign?
Mitchell: Because as a citizen and a business owner, enough is enough. We’re overly taxed and regulated and this massive new tax was the tipping point. The citizens of Colorado cannot afford a nearly 10% tax in the midst of a weak economy.
The Peak: What is your main line of argument to the voters of Colorado on why they should vote No on 103?
Mitchell: Prop 103 is a job killer. In fact, it could cause the loss of as many as 119k jobs over the next 5 years if passed.
The Peak: What kind of reaction have you received as you’ve begun to travel the state?
Mitchell: Incredibly positive; most people are interested in the issue and have expressed appreciation for our efforts to defeat it.
The Peak: What goals do you have for fundraising for Save Colorado Jobs?
Mitchell: We hope to raise enough money so that all Coloradoans can make an informed decision. Our opponents have stated they plan to raise upwards of $300k so we have our work cut out.
The Peak: Do you think Prop 103 is a test run for a larger and longer-term tax increase that will receive the full force backing of the liberal establishment?
Mitchell: Absolutely. Every argument they’re making has been done before including on Amendment 23, Referendum C, tax mill levy increase, and the dirty dozen tax increases passed by the previous legislature. This fight will continue and continue until the citizens of Colorado send a message that we can’t afford any more tax increases in the name of K-12. The K-12 problem is structure and not funding. There isn’t sufficient competition to the establishment, especially the teacher’s union. We need a new structure including the expansion of charter schooling, a true pay-for-performance model to reward our finest educators, and to revisit the voucher discussion. After we have a competitive model that provides teachers, students, and parents greater choices then we’ll be able to determine the proper level of funding. Under our current delivery of K-12, more money does not equal better outcomes. This is been proven over the last 20 years as math and reading scores have remained flat even as we’ve dramatically increased K-12 funding.
The Peak: What effect do you think the multitude of mill levy overrides on local ballots will have on Prop 103’s chances?
Mitchell: I believe it’s important for communities to decide how best to financially support local schools, and I support communities deciding on local mill levy elections. At the same time, I hope local voters deciding mill levy questions will look at 103 and reach the same conclusion that I’ve come to: enough-is-enough. Sending more taxes to Denver simply does not provide a better education for our children and does nothing to address accountability in the classroom.
The Peak: Do you think Governor Hickenlooper’s hiding from taking a position on Prop 103 will hurt him in the electorates’ eyes or will he get a pass?
Mitchell: I don’t know the political implications but it’s unfortunate the Governor has been weak and indecisive on this issue. This is not insignificant as we’re talking about a $3.1 billion tax increase over the next 5 years. If passed, it would be one of the largest tax increases in Colorado history. We need leadership from the Governor and it’s disappointing that he’s been ducking.
The Peak: As a successful businessman, what do you think the state needs to get the economy going again?
Mitchell: I know it’s cliché, but we need clarity. The business community needs clarification on regulations, taxes, and the impacts of the pending Obamacare legislation. All of these matters have led to weak confidence in the market place both from businesses and consumers. For Colorado, we need to consider what is offered from nearby states such as Wyoming, Nevada and even California. For example, Wyoming and Nevada have no corporate taxes, which is enticing to many middle sized companies that employ thousands. In California, tax rates are nearly 10% and the state continues to experience a drove of businesses exiting. Colorado needs a serious and thoughtful plan so we may attract the most dynamic companies to our state. The time for bold action and leadership is now.
The Peak: What similarities do you see between the arguments of Prop 103 proponents and those who pushed Ref C?
Mitchell: The arguments made by the proponents of Prop 103 are nearly identical. I debated then candidate Bill Ritter in 2005 when Ref C was on the ballot and recall him saying, “This is a one time tax needed to fill an education funding gap”. Does that sound familiar?
The Peak: You served on the House Education Committee — can you explain the state’s changing relationship with funding of K-12 and what a sustainable future looks like?
Mitchell: We need to fix the structure and then determine the appropriate level of funding. The first action should be to be ban card carrying, due paying members of the teachers’ union to serve on the Education Committees for both the House and Senate. This would at least reduce the union’s influence on the process and require an objective assessment for the reforms that are needed.
The Peak: The response we are hearing from the grassroots is very positive about what you are doing. Is there a statewide election in your future?
Mitchell: I’m enjoying the debate and lively discussion and meeting with interested and passionate people from all over our state. Hopefully, the efforts of SaveColoradoJobs.org will result in making a meaningful difference and we’ll be able to keep the government off our wallets for at least another year. It’s flattering that I’m asked regularly about running for office again and the answer is that I haven’t ruled it out. At this point, I’m focused on growing our fledgling company, speaking out about issues that matter, and spending time with my wife and three children.