(Editor’s note: You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
There are two major party candidates running for governor. Both want to gradually eliminate Colorado’s income tax.
They want the same outcome but by differing means.
So why is it that one candidate is being lampooned for it and no one is talking about the other candidate’s plan at all?
Heidi Ganahl put out a detailed plan to reduce state spending by 10% a year along with half-dozen proposed policy changes to end the income tax.
During a recent candidate’s forum hosted by the CEO confab, Colorado Concern, Ganahl’s plan was labeled as “total bulls—,” not by her opponent, but by the moderator, former Denver Post Publisher Dean Singleton.
I like Dean a lot. He is an old-school newspaper man, a first-class opinionated smartass, and one of the great workaholic men who built Denver. That said, there is a reason smartasses shouldn’t moderate candidate debates.
It’s not that Dean was wrong (he was) it’s that Dean didn’t give Gov. Jared Polis’ plan equal treatment. He didn’t give it any treatment at all.
Polis’ plan is to replace Colorado’s income tax with a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
I’d like to repeat that because no one seems to want to talk about it or ask him one solitary question about it: Jared Polis wants to replace Colorado’s income tax with a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
Polis has made his position clear multiple times including when running in 2018 and at a Steamboat Institute event last year. He did so again last week on Colorado Public Radio.
If the media cared to hold Jared Polis to the same standards to which they hold conservatives, they might find that if Ganahl’s tax plan is bull feces, then Polis’ is unicorn feces.
The dueling tax plans caught the curiosity of Ben Murrey, the director of fiscal policy at the Independence Institute, that shyster freedom outfit I operate, so he decided to run the numbers on both plans.
The short answer is this: Ganahl’s plan would be politically tough to implement, but it will do most all what she says it will do. Murrey’s analysis shows it replaces $10.29 billion of the $11.89 in lost revenue from eliminating the income tax. She’ll still need to find $1.57 billion to make ends meet, but she gets respectably close.
Colorado’s Constitution, unlike the U.S. Constitution, requires a balanced budget, so she’s got a bit more work to do. The same balanced-budget requirement makes Polis’ plan the much more interesting one.
While Ganahl is being ridiculed for (heaven forbid) providing details — details Singleton can crap on — Polis, in true Polis fashion, speaks only in imagery, so as not to anger anyone. What would his carbon tax tax, and at what rate? We don’t know.
To calculate a carbon tax, Murrey chose the gasoline tax, given that Polis has already increased it without your consent, by calling it a fee, by 8 cents a gallon.
And here’s the punchline: If Polis were to impose the entire carbon tax just on gasoline it would require a tax of $42.33 per gallon.
That’s not a typo.
This leads to a few uncomfortable questions. Why aren’t his friends in the media demanding any details from Polis on exactly what his plan is? My suspicion is they know he’s just flapping his gums and he’s not at all serious about ending the income tax, just like his 2018 election promise to close “special-interest” tax credits and use that money to lower taxes was a fib. Another Independence Institute study by Murrey found that there are more than $640 million more in special-interest tax breaks today than when he took the job.
By not giving equal scrutiny to his tax plan, they can beat up Ganahl for being courageous or stupid enough putting forward a detailed plan — effectively being an arm of the Polis campaign.
If there were attention given to Polis’ tax plan it would also instantly clash with his zero-emissions unicorn plans.
If Polis is going to make Colorado carbon-emissions free in the near future, just what the hell carbon is he going to tax to make his revenue-neutral elimination of the income tax? A billion-dollar tax on the last dozen guys to buy gas lawnmowers?
Without asking just a few simple questions voters might never get tired of Jared’s too-cute-by-half magic.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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