Mark Hillman: State Democrats prove themselves devious
Vail, CO, Colorado
If Democrats in the 2007 General Assembly were devious for passing Gov. Ritter’s infamous property tax hike without voter approval, the current crop plunges to new depths.
In an act of sheer arrogance, this year’s Democrat majority poked taxpayers in the eye just for spite.
Recall that the aforementioned property tax hike increases the burden on local property owners while reducing the state’s obligation to fund K-12 education.
Recall also that Colorado’s Constitution says that no “tax policy change directly causing a net revenue gain” can be enacted without a vote of the people and that this policy change increased property tax revenues by $117 million in the first year alone.
Finally, recall that crafty Democrats hinged permission for their tax hike on 174 separate, previous votes by taxpayers in all but four of the state’s 178 school districts. Never mind that those voters were repeatedly assured by school and state officials that their taxes would not increase as a result.
Not satisfied that the Colorado Supreme Court slipped this nonsense through a previously undiscovered loophole in the state Constitution, Democrats added arrogance to insult by swiftly passing a bill to now prevent any of those 174 school districts from reconsidering.
That’s arrogance, plain and simple.
For 13 years after voters adopted the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), the Department of Education and local school districts reassured property owners that they could loosen revenue limits on their local schools without making themselves vulnerable to a tax increase by the legislature.
They took this position not because the Department of Education or local school boards are staunch defenders of TABOR, but because they were following state law.
Then in 2007, the Legislature unilaterally decided to change the law, to impose an immediate tax increase on property owners and to retroactively change the result of those 174 local elections, all the while arguing that it was precisely those elections that permitted the tax hike in the first place.
As a result, property owners in those districts are now paying higher taxes — not so their schools can receive more money, but so the state can take the money it previously spent on K-12 education and spend it on social welfare programs instead.
However, the four districts that never waived their schools’ revenue limits remain exempt from the Legislature’s shenanigans. In those districts, the growth of local property tax revenues is limited and the state must provide any additional money necessary to fully fund those schools.
A reasonable taxpayer, or school board member, in one of the school districts now being soaked by the state might see this disparity and decide that the local school district should reconsider its decision to waive all revenue limits. After all, it’s one thing for property owners to permit local school to “keep the change” and quite another to permit the state to raise taxes, too.
Now thanks to Senate Bill 291, which was opposed by every Republican at the state Capitol, districts that loosened the tax limits under the old law are forbidden from reinstituting those limits now that the law has changed. If they do, the state will punish their children by withholding funds from their school.
This from the party that claims to do everything “for the children.” In reality, the Democrats do everything “for the government” and aren’t above using your children as hostages in their extortion racket.
It’s hard to imagine how the state’s constitutional mandate to provide a “thorough and uniform system of free public schools” could be interpreted to allow one school to be penalized solely because of the way its residents vote.
However, Colorado Democrats have already proven that they will ignore the Constitution when it’s inconvenient and that the state Supreme Court can be counted on to back them up.
Mark Hillman served as senate majority leader and state treasurer. To read more or comment, go to http://www.MarkHillman.com.