By Carol Hedges
CFI Executive Director
I know, I know. The March Madness analogies are getting stale but please bear with a few more basketball references as I describe the truly “mad” March hearing I was a part of Monday. I am, after all, a born-and-raised KU Jayhawk basketball fan.
The Senate State Affairs Committee, on a 3-2 party-line vote, rejected a very modest measure to ask voters to let the state keep their taxes to use them for schools, roads, health care and colleges. It wasn’t like watching the South Carolina/Duke game where, although the South Carolina victory was a longshot, some people put their money on the Gamecocks. By comparison, this game was fixed from the start. The vote tally going into the committee was a foregone conclusion. No Cinderella story here; the ugly sisters smashed the glass slipper as soon as they saw it.
In the case of HB 1187, it was worse than a No. 16 vs. No. 1 game, a matchup never won by the 16 seed. The other team didn’t even show up and they won. And that is what has become of Colorado’s management of its fiscal affairs.
This measure should have been a slam dunk. There must have been close to 20 witnesses testifying on the bill with just three of those witnesses asking for a no vote from committee members. Their main argument was that the bill was unconstitutional, and that argument was swatted down by Legislative Legal Services like Shaquille O’Neal blocking a lay-up by Danny DeVito.
It was patiently and clearly explained that the bill was merely implementing a component of TABOR.
There was one halftime adjustment to the defense. The chairman asked why legislators had to vote to let the people decide. Why didn’t cities, counties, special districts and school districts just raise the money and lead the effort? Again, missing the mark by failing to acknowledge just how expensive it was to get these measures on the ballot and totally abdicating any leadership role for legislators.
It is a sad day indeed when one extreme segment of the political world can hold the entire rest of the state hostage to its self-serving world view. As more people clamor for a voice in our political decision making, the actions of a slim majority of the Senate State Affairs committee reinforced the deepest fears and disappointments of many — that too many of our elected officials are more worried about staying in power than they are about the views of the people.
HB 1187 represented a centrist approach to a vexing problem in Colorado, how to keep up with the demands of a growing economy. It had bipartisan support in both chambers. It had the support of the Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, C3, Club 20, Colorado Farm Bureau, Progressive 15, Colorado Nonprofit Association, AARP, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Colorado Catholic Conference, Bell Policy Center and CFI and lots of members of Indivisible Colorado.
Yet a small group of extremist interests locked arms to block its consideration even by the full membership of the Senate, where it very well could have passed.
All this bill would have done was ask Colorado voters if they wanted to adopt the same playing court for economic growth used by the majority of other states with revenue limits — instead of the one we have now that simultaneously results in cuts and tax rebates. All this bill would have done is give Coloradans the chance to choose what to do with their dollars.
The valuable lesson learned was that the handful of extremists who support the false choices presented by our current fiscal system support the idea of asking voters only when the proposal benefits their narrow interests.
Unfortunately, Coloradans will not get a win for public schools and affordable higher education or even a chance for a win just now. But, in the spirit of a true sports fan, sometimes we have to take solace in the sentiment, “wait ‘til next year.”