2024 Leg Session, Columnists, Gold Dome, Jon Caldara, TABOR, Uncategorized

Caldara: Liquor tax masquerading as a ‘fee’ tramples on voters

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

State Sens. Kevin Priola and Chris Hansen are doing their very best impersonation of Carrie A. Nation, the early 1900s prohibitionist who attacked liquor establishments with a hatchet in one hand and a Bible in the other.

But “Mother Nation” just beat up drinkers. She didn’t steal their money and give it to opium users.

Do you know why bailing out student loans feels so morally broken? It’s because people who didn’t go to college are forced to pay people who did. The working class pays so the economic class above them can go to college to make yet more money than them. It’s the opposite direction we think redistribution should go.

Likewise, the current slate of anti-gun bills feels morally wrong to us gun owners (as if we have feelings). We get punished for other people’s crimes. We become criminals for having been responsible and legal.

A bill to punish gun crimes more harshly was shot down by this legislature. So, legislators don’t want to punish the bad guys, just us who haven’t hurt anyone. Even if you love gun control you can see how this warps the brains of us gunnies (I mean, if we had brains).

There is a moral and ethical harm to society when people are penalized for actions others take.

Senate Bill 181 takes this idea to a strange new level. It taxes alcohol to pay for rehab for drug addicts. You drink a beer responsibly, so you should pay to treat a meth junkie.

And of course, the bill labels the tax a “fee” to get around getting the consent of voters. Because of  the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), tax increases must be put up for a public vote. So-called “fees” don’t.

We voters got so tired of this “label a tax as a fee” game we passed a citizen’s initiative, Prop 117 in 2020, requiring any fee that takes more than $100 million from us be voted on by … us.

Senate Bill 181 takes more than that, so on the ballot it goes, right? Of course it doesn’t. What kind of state do you think you live in?

The sponsors of the bill, Lords Priola and Chris Hansen, wrote it to expressly avoid Prop 117. To hell with voters.

In the past, legislators would split a huge fee increase into smaller fees, each one just below the $100 million limit. So omniscient are our lords under the Gold Dome, they don’t even try to hide their ostentation with such a pedestrian trick.

So, they call this massive tax a “fee” to avoid voter consent, and willfully ignore a citizen’s initiative that we vote on such “fees.”

The team running around screaming, “we have to save democracy from Trump” is the team giving the middle finger to the voters who democratically passed both TABOR and Prop 117.

The word you’re looking for is “hubris.”

The bill taxes booze at the wholesale level, not at the cash register where consumers could see it. That hides taxes so those beer-swilling idiots get angry at the greedy liquor companies, not the politicians.

To the new left, “the ends do justify the means.”

The idea of a “fee” is that the money charged goes to service the person who paid. You pay a building permit fee, so a city inspector makes sure your building is safe. You pay the fee. You get the service.

But like paying off student loans, with Senate Bill 181 you pay and someone else gets the service. The money goes to aid boozers and–and this is the bait-and-switch–drug addicts.

Wait a second — chardonnay sippers must pay for services to fentanyl users?

Yep. Since illicit drug dealers haven’t been filling out their tax forms properly, you’ll have to pay for their damage with the sherry you use for cooking. That makes it not a fee. Those paying aren’t getting the service.

If I didn’t double check my calendar to make sure it was 2024, I’d think this bill came from the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family in the 1980s to pressure people away from the sin of alcohol, you know, for their own good.

If taxing my beer to treat meth heads is a great idea, wouldn’t voters easily pass it?

They know we wouldn’t. So, they trample on democracy. Remember that when they complain about Trump.

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


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