In 1980, after four tough years with Jimmy Carter as President, Ronald Reagan asked the American people a simple question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
This question is central to politics. The general public may not follow along with every policy debate, but they can always feel if things are getting better or worse for themselves and their families. And when the public develops a strong opinion about the direction of a country or st
ate, no amount of slick campaign materials and TV ads can sway them.
Here in Colorado, our economy has been on a hot streak. According to both U.S. News and USA Today, Colorado has the #1 economy in the nation. Another recent study found that Colorado is “the best state for job seekers.” Economically, things have been going really well.
So, this begs the question: why are Democrats doing their best this year to mess it all up?
One thing is certain: we haven’t become #1 simply by chance. We have great people, abundant natural resources, and countless unique attractions. We also have the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). This constitutional amendment not only helps our economy by limiting the excessive growth of government, but it also forces government to be more effective and efficient. This combination has created an economic environment ripe for continued growth.
Instead of staying on track with what’s been working for our economy, Democrats have quickly pivoted to far-left policies that threaten to do irreversible damage to our state’s financial health. The overreach has been striking – and the bipartisan collaboration that has worked in Colorado for years, has now become a thing of the past.
With control of both the legislature and Governor’s office, Democrats passed a bill this session that will greatly decrease oil and gas development in the state – meaning fewer jobs and less local revenue for schools. The legislature is also piling on burdensome environmental regulations that will increase costs for all of us. And before session ends, they will pass two bills that directly go after TABOR. One will raise taxes by $1 billion for family leave (while ignoring the fact that tax increases are mandated to go to voters for approval). The second is a referendum to take away our TABOR refunds permanently.
On top of all that, fees in Colorado continue to rise. Enterprises, which fall outside of TABOR limits, have seen their revenue go up 140% just over the last decade. And we already know that liberal special interests will be back with a massive new income tax hike on the 2020 ballot.
This past year, Colorado voters decided put Democrats in charge, but they also rejected oil and gas setbacks and two tax increases on the ballot. On economic issues, our state still leans right.
But instead of taking that voter feedback and prioritizing our $30 billion budget, Democrats are just trying to find ways to go around TABOR by implementing massive fees and using loopholes to raise government spending anyway.
As citizens, we can’t just watch this happen. We have to actively oppose bad policies and support good policies. We have to contact our legislators and go door-to-door to help educate people. We have to advocate for ballot issues that promote fiscal conservatism. And we have to support the recall elections when they make sense.
Coloradans might not revolt every time a new fee is created, but they will notice when the Democrats’ economic policies start to negatively impact our overall economy. The good news is the fight for Colorado’s economic future is a marathon, not a sprint. And our job is simply to leave Colorado better off than it is now.
The question for Coloradans in a year, or three years from now, will be: Do you feel like you and your family are better off? If not, we shouldn’t be surprised when voters demand a change of direction.
Michael Fields is the executive director of Colorado Rising Action.