debt, Governor Polis, Jon Caldara, TABOR, Taxes

Caldara: Will Governor Polis end the practice of disguising taxes as fees?

We will soon find out if Jared Polis has the muscle his two Democratic predecessors didn’t have — the strength to stand up against his own party.

Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission

I’ve known Jared for over 20 years, and I’ll give him this much: He knows how to at least speak “libertarian.” Unlike Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper, he has the potential to fulfill the perfunctory campaign mantra, “I will be a governor for ALL Colorado.”

He was easily the better candidate back in 2008 when running against the traditional, big-labor, big-everything-government Joan Fitzgerald for the Democrat’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District party nomination. Fun aside — I told him if he donated $1 million to my organization, Independence Institute, I’d ensure his victory against Joan by NOT endorsing him. Quick as a whip he shot back, “How much for you to endorse Joan?”

He has embraced many aspects of school choice, even being the driving force behind opening some charter schools. He personally introduced me to one of my longtime heroes, supply-side economist and Reagan advisor Art Laffer, and while in Congress, Jared on occasion stood up against calls for income tax increases, especially on businesses. He understands the tech and venture capital industries, which like other businesses thrive when taxes and regulations are in check. And he comprehends the power of crypto-currency and blockchain technology, which might become a driving sector in Colorado, if he works to protect it.

Heck, even though I’m sure he’d love if I stopped mentioning it, Jared authored an issue paper for the Independence Institute calling for the U.S. Postal Service to be completely privatized, as many other countries have done. Of course, while in Congress where he could have promoted the concept, he didn’t.

So, Mr. Polis could really be a different kind of Democrat, a governor for all Colorado. There’s one surefire way we will tell. He won’t do what Ritter and Hick did so often. He won’t go behind the backs of voters and raise taxes by labeling them “fees.”

Our state constitution, via the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, guarantees us citizens the right to vote on raising taxes, debt, and letting the state keep extra revenue above inflation and population growth. Jared and the new progressive legislature can raise all the taxes they like, put our great-grandchildren into crippling debt AND keep every excess penny the state collects —  all they have to do is ask our consent first. It’s transparent and respectful.

The Colorado Supreme Court disdains this financial citizen consent so much they ruled that by calling taxes by different names, governments here don’t have to even ask. Thus, “tax increase by calling it a fee” was born.

Your wallet can’t tell the difference between a tax and a fee.

Bill Ritter “froze” our mill levy rates from going down to compensate for our property values increasing with his “Mill Levy Freeze.” If your property taxes seem a lot higher, this could be why.

He raised your car registration tax by calling it the “Faster Fee.” This hit rural Coloradans harder because they own more vehicles, trucks and trailers.

Hick raised a tax on sick people when they are in the hospital with his “Hospital Provider Fee.”

In all these cases the governor could have forced it go to a vote of the people. But, as Hick was recorded telling a group of businessmen, polling showed the people would vote them down. So, Ritter and Hick just did it without consent by calling a tax increase a “fee.”

This might not be a surprise but, the governor-elect’s progressive platform of all-day preschool, 100 percent renewables, and Medicare for all might not be free. So, the question is as governor, as leader of his party, as governor for all Colorado, will Polis go around the voters by playing the “fee” game? Worse, will he try to weaken Colorado’s guarantee of voter consent?

Jared Polis has the opportunity to be a different kind of leader. But it will take strength to stand up for all Colorado, and respect us enough to ask for consent.

We’ll know soon enough.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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