(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
The debacle that was Proposition HH has one owner. His name is Jared Polis.
He is not only the leader of the executive branch of Colorado’s government, but also the leader of the Democratic Party that has a supermajority control of the legislature.
To put it as simply as possible, HH is his embarrassment. And I know embarrassments. I had a leisure suit as a kid in the late 1970s.
And like leisure suits this embarrassment was so easy to see coming. I wrote in May that HH was doomed to failure.
The fibbing ballot language, the governor’s own lies, bringing his employee economist Art Laffer to debate by his side, and millions of dollars of advertising wasn’t going to change the course of this albatross Polis will wear around his neck.
His next albatross might be his special session.
It was a clever bit of showmanship to “break the glass” with a baseball bat in a in-case-of-emergency-break-glass skit to announce a special session. Except this is an emergency of the governor’s own making. He has had more than 2.5 years to deal with finding a replacement for the Gallagher amendment.
It is oh-so-perfectly Polis to portray himself as coming to save the day, running with a fire hose to a fire he purposely started himself. In civilian life it’s called arson. If you’re elected, it’s called political theater.
One of the reasons HH went down in flames is local media did their job on this one. They let voters know HH wasn’t really tax relief, but a disguised method to relieve them of their TABOR refunds.
Kyle Clark of 9News set the tone for the entire operation in May when he said, “governor we’re not dumb,” signaling to many in the media it was OK to report the truth even if it reflected poorly on Polis.
Shaun Boyd of CBS4 camped out at the Title Board where I submitted a clone of the bill that created HH to find the official government board wouldn’t give it a title anywhere near the fib the legislature wrote for themselves. That truth hurt.
If the media follows the ins and outs of this special session, there’s a chance the voters’ wishes might be honored. If not, TABOR refunds will be stolen anyway, relabeled, and called “property tax relief,” as if HH wasn’t really defeated.
During a televised debate regarding HH, Gov. Polis excitedly exclaimed he wanted exactly what opponents wanted: permanently lower property taxes, a much lower permanent income tax cut and a portable senior homestead exemption.
But Polis, in a moment of embarrassing candor, showed his political impotency during the debate. Agreeing he wanted all these reforms he basically said to Republican Rep. Rose Pugliese, “but good luck getting 20 Democrats to join you.”
So, the leader of the Democrat supermajority can’t lead even 20 of them? Not a good look for someone people are whispering about as a potential U.S. President.
The simple logic is if Democrats have a supermajority, then Republicans have a super minority. So, if Democrats or the media start pointing to Republicans as stumbling blocks to a successful special session, then they don’t understand the meaning of “supermajority.”
The governor and his supermajority team created this mess. I, for one, am very curious to see how they’re going to get themselves out of it without raiding TABOR refunds or caving to greedy local governments.
Legislative Republicans must hold two simple standards for the special session:
First, refuse to vote for anything that takes money from TABOR refunds. If the legislature is going against the will of the people, let Polis and his Democrats own it.
And secondly, don’t vote for this hogwash that it’s the state government’s job to somehow throw money to local governments.
The governor is using the loaded term “backfill.” There is nothing to backfill. Local governments are not losing any money if the state lowers the property tax assessment rate. They’re just not getting the obscenely outrageous increase their big eyes wanted.
Local governments will be getting huge tax increases. If they want even more, they can ask their own voters for it.
If the state starts doling out money to local governments now it will become an entitlement forever. As with every drug dealer, the first one’s always free.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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