You must be one stupid son of a gun. Why else would Jared Polis and the Democrats in the legislature think you would fall for their “saving you money” election-year circus act? Step right up, folks! Witness astounding feats of legislative legerdemain! As they say, there’s a sucker born every minute.
Just three years ago, Polis tried to convince taxpayers that Proposition CC somehow would let the state spend more money “without raising taxes.” He used that phrase three times in the same op-ed. Track the ball under the cup and place your bets! The ballot measure would have let politicians spend our refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), thereby increasing the net amount of taxes we pay to the state, even though technically it would not have raised tax rates.
Polis also said, repeating language from the ballot measure, that the money would be used for “education and transportation.” But of course state money generally is fungible, meaning the legislature could have just redirected existing money away from education and transportation and then backfilled with the additional tax dollars. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t the legislature prioritize the money it already has? Anyway, voters defeated Polis’s vanishing act to make TABOR refunds permanently disappear.
Fast forward to this year and enter the Chamber of Oddities. Now Polis is taking credit for the TABOR refunds he previously tried to eliminate and that his party actively seeks to end. Here is how Polis begins his letter: “On behalf of the State of Colorado, it is a true pleasure to send you this enclosed ‘Colorado Cashback’ refund check. This Spring, I signed Senate Bill 22-233, which directed the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR) to refund $750 to each individual resident taxpayer and $1,500 to resident joint tax filers.”
The letter does go on to note, without explicitly mentioning TABOR, that “Colorado law limits how much the state can spend each year.” Still, the start of the letter signed by Polis sounds remarkably like Polis taking credit for the refunds.
Was there any reason, other than political showmanship, for Polis’s name to appear anywhere in the refund envelope, three months before Polis just happens to be up for reelection? Polis told CPR that his letter “just explains the basics of why people are getting the check.” Yeah. Because, you know, without Polis’s big fat signature on a letter with the check explaining things, no one possibly could have figured out their TABOR refunds. A generic notice or a letter signed by Joe Blow Bureaucrat wouldn’t have gotten the job done.
State GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown filed a campaign finance complaint alleging that Polis’s letter constitutes a “violation of electioneering law.” I’m not sure about that, although the letter seems at least “a little icky,” to use a phrase by CPR’s Ryan Warner. I didn’t look back to see if Brown complained about Donald Trump putting his name on “stimulus” checks in 2020.
True, Polis’s letter isn’t quite as bad as, say, presenting a cow fetus in a jar as a dead alien. It’s more like dressing up in a Hans and Franz muscle suit and pretending to be the World’s Strongest Man with a little help from dummy weights. The bill Polis mentions, SB22-233 did affect when and how the state sent out TABOR refunds.
Axios’s John Frank summarizes, “The refund is typically reflected in state income tax returns due each April, but Democrats moved it to three months before the general election, claiming taxpayers needed the money urgently. . . Sending the checks early will cost the state $2.7 million. . . Democrats also changed the refund formula to make it more progressive by increasing the check for lower-income earners and decreasing it for those with higher incomes.”
It’s understandable that Democrats would crow about making TABOR refunds more “progressive” given they can’t eliminate them completely. But then, if Polis was going to insist on sending a letter with the refunds, he should have started off, “Because of TABOR, the state of Colorado owes taxpayers back some small portion of their tax dollars. I hate TABOR and my party wants to repeal it and permanently eliminate TABOR refunds, but we achieved a partial victory by making the refunds more ‘progressive’ than they otherwise would have been. Also, we’re spending extra to send out the funds before the election, which definitely has nothing to do with the fact that I’m up for reelection and Democrats are worried about losing seats in the legislature.” That last bit is a lie, but it is so obvious a lie that no one would be fooled by it.
Earlier this year Polis attempted to sing “50 Ways to Save You Money.” A more appropriate song for Polis and his TABOR-hating Democratic allies is the Greatest Showman’s “Never Enough,” slightly modified, “All the tax dollars we steal from the night sky will never be enough, never be enough.”
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.
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